Learning to Be Happy
In recent years, Kayleigh Goldsworthy has been playing second fiddle (almost literally) to a host of names in the alt rock scene. She’s played on records by and toured with The Menzingers, Bayside, Kevin Devine, and My Chemical Romance’s Frank Iero, but she’s much more than part of a backing band. That’s something her new solo album Learning to Be Happy ably demonstrates from beginning to end, though its making was only allowed because the pandemic cut off her duties as a touring member for those acts.
It’s a heavy title, but the essence of Learning to Be Happy is captured by its 10 sumptuously sad tracks. Because despite the title, Goldsworthy never quite achieves her goal on this record. Rather, this is a document of her process in attempting to get there—a deeply personal, revealing, and vulnerable collection of songs that sounds like hearts breaking for eternity. They do heal, but slowly, scabs covering a lifetime of memories that’ll never quite be forgotten, and regrets that’ll never truly vanish.
This, then, is the sound of that ache in your stomach, the nausea of heartbreak that you think will never leave. Whether that’s contained in the forthright, melancholy power-pop anthemics of opener “Losing My Mind,” the despondent fragility, hopelessness, and helplessness of “Better,” or the defiant minor-chord jangle of “Happy Again,” that lacuna is overwhelming. Take the latter song and the devastating lyrics of its first two verses: “You got married on a Monday when I was in LA / Isn’t that kind of funny how things worked out that way? / I guess you must have been doing great, maybe I was sad / I guess it must be the best day that you’ve ever had.”
The earnestness with which those lines are delivered—not to mention the juxtapositions they contain—make them all the more powerful, as does Goldsworthy’s searching vocals. Then there’s final track “Little Ghost,” a plaintive, piano-laced song of self-recrimination that strives for closure and understanding, even if there’s none to be found. Except, just by the song’s very existence, there is. Similarly, while happiness might not quite be within reach here, it’s striving for it. And sometimes that’s all we can do.