|Album Review: Meg & Dia - happysad|
Meg & Dia
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When sisters Meg and Dia Frampton first formed their band in 2004, it was an effort born out of family history, childhood passions, and aspirational indulgences. During the next decade, the two would traverse all the valleys and peaks of life as a young musician, emboldened by their success and eventually separated by their differences. With their paths diverged, the silence that followed became too deafening. Reuniting after eight strenuous years, Meg & Dia return with a forthright, loving, and absolutely stunning release with their new album, happysad.
While happysad is prefaced with a heavy and emotional story, it surprises with its buoyancy and uplifting nature. "'Happysad', to me, means enjoying the whole spectrum of human emotions without getting lost too far in either the pressure of needing to feel totally happy all the time or losing yourself in darkness as a subtle form of self-inflicted unworthiness," Meg explains. The first track, "American Spirit", is a dreamy production grounded in personal truths and spiritual healing. Instantly catchy without being obtrusive, Dia's soft yet soulful vocals command the track, skillfully guiding it from verse to bridge to chorus in one fell swoop.
"Teenagers" is this album's embodiment of its core strength- its rugged edges. While happysad never wavers from its alt-pop roots, it doesn't quite succumb to them either. Whether it's a slight distortion of the vocals, a more robust drum kick, or jangly keys supplemented with a thrumming bass ("Koala"), every track throws its own little punch. "Better at Being Young" recounts snapshots of memories, lamenting about the passing of time before emphatically proclaiming "I was better at being young". That one line changes this album. It is at this mid-point that you start realizing that Meg & Dia's return isn't about glamorizing their reunion in an attempt to stay current. Stripped down and bare, it is about finding freedom in honesty. "I’ve developed this slogan that I use and say to myself every time I walk into a recording studio or on stage, 'All in. Open heart'," Meg shares. "To me, it means, whatever happens BRING IT! It’s just fun. It’s playing together like little kids with crayons on walls and just scribbling all over to our heart’s content."
When listening to Meg & Dia, one of the first observations made is their incredible vocal presence, matched only by their notably infectious hooks ("Lit Match", "Boys Can Cry"). In the album's closer, "Dear Heart", the pair showcase that while vocal prowess and a refined production are crucial elements of an album, they hold little value without the songwriting. Openly vulnerable, the pair croon along to a lilting acoustic guitar melody, asking their hearts to direct them along a better path: "Tell me which way to go | Tell me it gets easier". Stunningly simple, it's a worthy end to an emotionally-packed album; subtly reminding us that to every end, there is always the lure of a new beginning.