Happyness: Tiny Desk Concert

By Bob Boilen  |  NPR


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If you’re a fan of dark, incredibly dry, wry humor, you’ve just found Happyness. In 2014, I first heard the band sing these words on a stage in New York City, from the song “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere”:

I’m wearing Win Butler’s hair

There’s a scalpless singer

With a Montreal rock band somewhere

And he’s all right

With such perverse, funny imagery, Londoners Benji Compston, Jonny Allan and Ash Cooper spin tales that often fire up a cartoon question mark in my head. But at the same time, I’m grooving to their strangely jazzy pop sounds.

In their longest Tiny Desk tune, “Weird Little Birthday Girl,” I’m reminded of Wilco — maybe the sound from around A Ghost Is Born, with all the long, repetitive phrases — but Happyness doesn’t build its songs to a frenzy the way that band might. Instead, they enchant and lull, only snapping me out of my dream state with their constant quirkiness. Happyness’ members sang all three of these songs through a palm-sized guitar amp, which made their voices that much creepier.

It’s a weird little song

She’s a weird little girlfriend

We don’t really get along

That creepiness is endearing, though, as you’ll hear in their banter as they tune and switch instruments between songs. They deserve their own musical-comedy show, honestly, and it would fall somewhere between stand-up gags and eerie calm. I’d be happy with that.

Set List

  • “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere”
  • “It’s On You”
  • “Weird Little Birthday Girl”


Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Walker, Lani Milton; Assistant Producer: Elena Saavedra Buckley; photo by Morgan Walker/NPR

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