ALBUM REVIEW: Spirits and the Melchizedek Children – ‘So Happy, It’s Sad’

Spirits and the Melchizedek Children - So Happy, It's Sad

So Happy, It’s Sad
[Fallen Arrows, 2014]


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“Haunting” is an adjective that seems to find its way into every Spirits and the Melchizedek Children write-up (including many of my own) and you have to wonder how much of it has to do with their actual songwriting and how much it has to do with the built-in associations of their name. Certainly there’s a definite spectral quality to the band’s overarching aesthetic — the hushed, black-clad atmosphere is always there, as are the hazy vocals and diaphanous guitars — but compared to the band’s decidedly melancholy debut, We Are Here to Save YOU, the group’s latest effort feels positively luminescent.

Opening track “Lullabies of War” sets the album’s luminous, moonlit tone, it’s deep-set grooves unfolding in ecstatic waves like ripples across the fabric of space. As usual, Jason Elliott anchors everything, his whispery, arresting croon bearing just enough girth and weight to keep the band’s ethereal atmospherics from breaking up and dissipating like so much wintery mist.

“Song Bird’s Grave,” first revealed as a standalone 7-inch and damn near the best local single of 2013, continues the ineluctable upward flight with a steady stream of shimmering guitars and soaring grooves. Elsewhere, the sweeping “Lost and Found,” with its restless musical wanderlust and mournful cellos (courtesy of Matt Jarrard of Book Club and Oryx and Crake), showcases the band’s penchant for merging beauty and tension, while the hymnal drone of “Past, Present, Future” helps bring the the album to an appropriately celestial close.

SATMC may have expanded into a six-piece since releasing their debut, but remarkably there’s no clutter to be found, no elbowing for room on any of these sprawling eight tracks. It’s a record defined as much by restraint—by elegant pauses and meditative lulls—as it is by sumptuous shoegaze swells and volcanic bursts of textured noise. The band’s no stranger to glacial dirges, as evidenced by the devastatingly powerful “Land Tied,” but even at their most stripped-down they manage to sound purposeful and direct. A lot of local records will be released in 2014, but I doubt we’ll hear something as beautiful, transportive, and, yes, haunting, as So Happy, It’s Sad, which may turn out to be the group’s defining moment.

Spirits and the Melchizedek Children are currently attempting to help recoup the costs of recording, mixing, mastering, promoting and touring via indieGoGo. Please visit their campaign and consider donating to the cause.

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