PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Rachel Schain: Happy Happy

Happy Happy is a sure-footed selection of pop songs showcasing the strong, sweet voice of singer-songwriter Rachel Schain.


Rachel Schain

Happy Happy

Label: Self-released
US Release Date: 2010-08-13
UK Release Date: 2010-08-13
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Happy Happy is a short, but surprisingly sure-footed, debut selection of pop songs that showcases several performance styles, all built upon the strong, sweet voice of singer-songwriter Rachel Schain.

"Rockstar, Bitch" starts the disc with a smart, tart declaration of purpose. A snarl of guitar provides the second clue -- the first being the title -- that this sprightly tune about the trials of being the hot girl's friend isn't just an exercise in catharsis or confidence-building. Schain's conviction is clear as she belts out catchy choruses of "I am gonna be a rockstar, bitch / A rockstar, bitch / A rockstar, bitch / So you go on ahead and scratch that itch / 'Cause I am gonna be a rockstar, bitch!" Note the comma in the song title, and note also that, although the lyrics are directed at a male musician, the empowering sentiment is meant for everyone.

"Bobbi Sue" switches styles in an ode to classic 1950s balladry, complete with gorgeous "shoo-wop shoo wah" backing vocals, brushes on the drums, and an upright bass sound. The arrangement and production not only evoke that early era where rock met pop, they pay direct musical homage to Santo and Johnny with its echoes of the "Sleepwalk" guitar solo. The combined effects of these elements is mesmerizing, but they're only half the magic here. This is precisely the sort of thing for which voices like Schain's were made. Not this type of stylized tribute specifically, but this kind of singing, where the words have weight and her voice carries, and conveys, every ounce of their emotional message.

Other tracks on Happy Happy aren't as heavy as "Bobbi Sue", at least in terms of concept or production. "The Way I Love You", "By Your Side", and "Mixed Signals", for instance, while not entirely acoustic (Schain is backed by a band for the whole record), do share certain qualities with the girl-and-her-guitar genre prevalent in indie pop today. "The Way I Love You" is another perspective on the themes in "Rockstar, Bitch" -- its precursor, perhaps -- it is much more internal, and as such, not as powerful. It's at this point that the album begins, briefly, to approximate various things we've heard several times before.

"By Your Side" particularly falls prey to its resemblance to any number of similarly folky laments by other performers. It's something of a misstep amongst so many standout songs. Meanwhile, "Mixed Signals", although vocally stunning, suffers from a sense of somber severity that threatens to topple it. It's saved, of course, by Schain's devastating soprano and remarkable phrasing, which, for this track, is eerily reminiscent of Natalie Merchant.

Happy Happy's closing track, "Not My Place" is another piece centered on an acoustic guitar, but it returns to a bit of the rock of the opener. It has more than a little of that lyrical bite, too, as Schain compares herself to a romantic replacement and finds the surrogate sorely lacking. It's to her credit that this doesn't seem spiteful in any sense. In fact, nothing on this album is mean-spirited in any way, but it is all incredibly, irresistibly sharp. That disarming alacrity, in addition to an ear for melodic pop and her distinctive, full and undeniably rocking soprano, is what elevates Rachel Schain's simple compositions so far above the average coffeehouse acoustic singer-songwriter set.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.