Happy Diving, “Electric Soul Unity”

Happy DivingHappy_Diving-2016-Electric_Soul_Unity
Electric Soul Unity
TOPSHELF
7/10

Happy Diving’s 2014 debut LP is called Big World. The Oakland band’s second proper album, Electric Soul Unity, opens, appropriately enough, with “Bigger World,” offering more of the feedback that was so prevalent on that first album. Rest assured that Happy Diving didn’t stray far; their sludgy, guitar-heavy sound was comparable to Dinosaur Jr. when they started out, and it still is. This time around, though, the band took that style and stretched it a little farther. On Big World, the cymbals crashed louder and the fuzz grew thicker. In contrast, Electric Soul Unity sounds like it was written by guys who spent at least a little time in the Northern California sun—a vibe that spans all the way to the album’s title.

The first few songs sound familiar, but then things slow down with “Head Spell,” which is just as loud, but not as often. It’s effective in the way that early Foo Fighters songs are, when they’re at their quietest and most beautiful right before releasing a torrent of noise. Later in the album, Happy Diving enters Modest Mouse territory with “Pain Country.” “Unknown Feeling” is a ballad, relatively speaking—a whole minute and forty-three seconds of nothing but vocals and an actual acoustic guitar. Closing track “River Will Flow” is the perfect summary, anchored by a faster pace and one of the most poignant guitar lines on the album.

While Electric Soul Unity sounds like it could’ve been released two decades ago, the band is much more than the sum of its ’90s Greats parts. On Twitter, they call themselves “Oakland unity metal.” Electric Soul Unity lightens up some (only some) on the “metal” while giving more of a glimpse of the “Oakland” than we’ve seen from them. It’s nothing new, but it’s quite good. 120 Minutes would approve wholeheartedly.

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