Put two men in slick 'n snazzy suits, chuck them in grayscale photographs, add a bucketload of musical wit, and we'd get Mancunian synthpop duo HURTS. After finishing fourth in BBC's Sound of 2010 poll, Theo Hutchcraft (vocals) and Adam Anderson (synthesizers) became one of the most anticipated acts, and when their debut album Happiness finally came out, it certainly didn't disappoint.
Happiness is a perfect example of a cohesive, well-bound album strewn with dramatic production and a mood that would match their photographs. In hindsight, Happiness seems like a tiring LP to listen to-- what with all the melancholy (and Theo's tailor-fit vocals to these sort of tracks). But in the midst of the gloom are slivers of hope that are craftily placed in the often-haunting melodies.
I have to say, pinpointing a single standout track is near to impossible, as is distinguishing the lackluster ones. A good number of tracks exude exploding choruses, best exemplified by Illuminated. Then there's the quite important Devotion, which I am obliged to mention. Not very many popstars in suits (or non-suits for that matter) can get Kylie Minogue to appear in their album, and their duet suits the 'goddess of pop' to a T, creating a gorgeous midtempo ballad aching with emotion.
Sunday and Better Than Love are as upbeat as HURTS could get, the latter being their anthemic debut single that spurred dismissal from critics and branded them as 'an 80's-sounding band that came a few years too late', but Wonderful Life and Silver Lining would prove otherwise. Though the message of pain and heartache are present in the course of the album, The Water conveys it most excruciatingly, and a hidden track, Verona, emerges with Theo's chilling forlorn voice calling out.
There are a myriad of 'pop gold' moments in Happiness, and its strict well thought-out format flaunts a consistency not usually present in most longplayers today. Then, there's the matter of 'style over substance' with HURTS, since behind the grandoise production and sweeping choruses lie lyrical content that are not up to par with the rest. Happiness shows exactly what is on its cover: a clean-cut album riddled with dismal tunes and a touch of class.