On Aug. 28, The Happy Fits released “What Could Be Better,” a successful and impressive collection of ten tracks that showcase their effervescent, lively music that blend classic instruments with modern pop songwriting. In this sophomore album, The Happy Fits continue to establish their sunny, optimistic and bright beach rock sound.
Now with two albums and an EP under their belts, The Happy Fits have continued to develop their sound while gaining confidence in songwriting. “What Could Be Better” establishes the group with more intricate production elements, but the heart of their indie-rock genre remains.
Track by Track
“What Could Be Better” opens with three of the singles from the album, including “Go Dumb,” “No Instructions” and “Moving.” These upbeat tracks highlight The Happy Fits’ ability to play quick-paced and optimistic instrumentals, while the lyrics simultaneously dive into greater emotional depth. One of my favorite singles from the album, “Moving” begins with rhythmic hand-clapping and is filled with feel-good, Beach Boys-inspired harmonies. Yet, below the surface of this happier melody, lie heart-breaking lyrics about loss and trying to hold on to people despite the changes that life brings.
Calvin Langman, the band’s primary songwriter and cellist, said, “‘What Could Be Better’ is a very personal album about our experiences in the past few years after dropping out of college to pursue music as a career. Many of the songs deal with the personal struggle of finding self-acceptance as an artist when a large part of my support system was against my decision to leave school.”
“What Could Be Better” is saturated with the relentless search for acceptance and connection. It recognizes that we all are still growing up and constantly learning. Langman said, “I guess I’ll be looking back on ‘What Could Be Better’ as a snapshot or diary of how I viewed the world when I was 20-22 years old.”
While The Happy Fits are recognizable for their optimistic indie rock, the band has also been able to explore the limits of this genre with “The Garden.” This ballad and lullaby-esque track paints an all-consuming soundscape that repeatedly asks, “So if I lay down and let the roots grow ’round, would it make me whole again?” The garden is painted as a source of escape, but the question at the heart of the chorus reveals a desire to heal from past trauma and pain. While The Happy Fits’ discussions of change and growing pains are typically hidden within upbeat melodies, this stripped back song honestly confronts these painful experiences in order to present hope for future healing.
In an email announcement that coincided with the release of the last single from the album, The Happy Fits shared that “Hold Me Down” is one of their most personal songs on the album. The Happy Fits wrote, “Being on the road so much often leads to a feeling of disconnect with our families and loved ones. There have been times when it feels like we are chasing a pipe dream, only in vain. This song goes out to our loved ones that care for us and support our dreams and keep us grounded when our heads get too far up in the clouds.” The chorus begs, “Hold me down tight when I’m losing my mind, You tied a tether here to keep me close.” This longing for connection and grounding to the world showcases the difficulty of trying to maintain relationships while pursuing ambitious goals and lofty dreams.
These discussions of connections and relationships are continued as the album flows smoothly into “She Wants Me (To Be Loved).” This bright track leans into beach rock sounds and demands listeners to dance along. But, as The Happy Fits have continuously mastered a duality of fun instrumentals and darker lyrics, “She Wants Me” presents an ambiguity with separate interpretations with whether “she wants me” or “she wants me to be loved.” This song also contains one of my favorite lyrics from the album, “Let’s take a walk down by the beach, it’s warm on the sand, we’ll save space for Jesus, I’ll pick you flowers while you count the hours.” This lyric immediately evoked rom-com imagery, and I love the song’s passion and the brutal honesty on both parties’ sides. Langman said, “I’ve had the idea for ‘She Wants Me (To Be Loved)’ since I was in high school, so finally getting that song out was big for me. There’s no feeling like releasing an idea you’ve had pent up for almost a decade.”
On “Sailing,” the band’s camaraderie is reflected in harmonies and shared lead vocals. While the song may admit that “it’s been so long since I had a friend,” the friendship between the members of The Happy Fits is clearly evident. This song is stylistically different from what the band has previously produced, but this slowed down and acoustic track easily flows with the album’s discussions of forming and maintaining connections with various people.
The titular and final track, “What Could Be Better,” culminates the album’s discussions of identity and finding a place in the world. The lyric, “There’s a hole in my consciousness where I feel I belong,” was inspired by Langman’s isolation as one of the few Asian-Americans in his hometown. “I don’t have crippling social anxiety, but I have always felt like I’m a bit different,” Langman said. “I grew up in rural New Jersey and was one of three Asian kids in my high school… Also, growing up with Hollywood and TV shows, I didn’t see many people like me, especially half-Filipinos.” While the song doesn’t find a single solution, the album concludes in acceptance with the status quo, but there remains a hope for what the future will bring.
Throughout “What Could Be Better,” The Happy Fits share their message that “life sucks a lot of the time, so it’s important to find and enjoy happiness wherever and whenever you can,” Langman said. The Happy Fits have become experts at simultaneously recognizing the pain that life presents, while also appreciating the happiness and joy that coexist. From the lyrics to the instrumentals, and down to the album’s imagery, The Happy Fits aim to recognize the beauty in life, even if it’s found in pain. Langman said, “we felt the grapefruit was fitting [for the album artwork] because it looks bright and juicy on the outside, but when you open it up, it’s bitter. A lot of our songs on the outside are poppy and happy harmoniously, but the lyrics are a bit more introspective and rational.”
With emotionally honest lyrics and fun pop instrumentals, The Happy Fits have created a succinct and irresistible album that is universally relatable.