The Softlightes | Say No to Being Cool, Say Yes to Being Happy (Modular)

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cd_softlightesAs I listened, I was instantly transported to a grassy park, sitting on a blanket with my three closest friends, eating fresh fruit and laughing lightly as the sun shined down on our bare shoulders.






Another spacey-indie rock album, you ask? Well, yes, it is. But it's extremely different from your typical spacey-indie rock records, such as Air's Talkie Walkie, Morcheeba's Big Calm, or Portishead's 1997 self-titled release. There always seems to be some sort of void in those records—not enough orchestration, no lyrics, or perhaps the fact that half of it was engineered by a computer as opposed to human hands. But Softlightes' 2007 Say No to Being Cool, Say Yes to Being Happy is a real gem. It mixes the perfect amount of whimsical electronica pop with a sweet helping of thoughtful lyrics and a good amount of earnest, computer-generated musical genius.

The quartet is the brainchild of lead singer Ron Fountenberry and includes bassist Kristian Dunn, pianist Andrew Van Baal, and drummer Tim Fogarty. Both Dunn and Fountenberry were members of the now-defunct the Incredible Moses Leroy, a band definitely influenced by the same bands that Softlightes is reminiscent of. Both bands had the same main idea: to make the listener feel suspended in a happy time, full of love and joy.

I first listened to this song in a freezing cold room with the snow falling outside. I was instantly transported to a grassy park, sitting on a blanket with my three closest friends, eating fresh fruit and laughing lightly as the sun shined down on our bare shoulders. Okay, so I wasn't really there, but this album is the perfect soundtrack for the aforementioned scenario. Not only do the lyrics provide a cool sense of relief for our troubled minds in today's society, they relay ideas concisely.

All of the tracks of the album are jewels in their own ways, but the shiniest of all is "The Microwave Song." It's reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie both vocally and instrumentally, but it still has a mind of its own with weird, conceptual lyrics that proclaim, "I think I've heard these words before/ they made me blue/ I'm looking at you from your tennis shoe/ But I'm stuck to the sound/ of your merry-go-round/ You're just a beautiful kind of flu/ I am just a microwave." This song has such a melancholy idea behind it, but it's so darn catchy that it'll get stuck in your head for days.

Another real bauble from this record is "If the World Had Cookies," one of those next great love songs. It starts out sounding sort of cheesy (weird synthesizer noises that reminded me of Boyz II Men), but once the drumset and wah pedal from the guitar kick in, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. With lyrics like "You're my rock n' roll/ I hope you never go/ and you're my rock n' roll/ please don't ever ever go," it's hard to be upset. Especially when the next line is, "Don't worry, we'll be happy/ let's all go out dancing." How can this short piece of poetry not make you ecstatic about living?

Finally, the first single from the release, "Heart of Sound," is a masterpiece of noise. Not only do the lyrics drip with transcendence, not only do the instruments all melodiously cooperate, and not only is there the perfect fusion of electronica/wispy vocals/indie pop, the song is accompanied by an amazing video. Each word from the song is created by flowers, pipes, paperclips—you name it. The song's premise is of a group that ends up in some clouds—and they find a heart of sound under a tree. What a great way to end the day. A | Kaylen L. Hoffman

RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie, Portishead, Morcheeba

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