A Disappointing Return
Good Sad Happy Bad is the first we’ve heard from Micachu and the Shapes since Mica Levi—the project’s core musician—struck out on her own to write the score for the 2013 thriller, Under the Skin. Her disturbing yet subtle film score earned her a place among industry professionals, and on Good Sad Happy Bad she treads territory that could be just as brilliant. Still, despite its catchy nature, listeners may find the album somewhat unfulfilling. The record largely consists of sound samples and glitchy melodies, and Good Sad Happy Bad simply falls short of Levi’s previous efforts.
The album’s twelve tracks open with the upbeat, ironically titled “Sad.” While the song’s hook is bouncy and the samples zip, the track establishes an underlying melancholy that persists throughout the album. While “Sad” is the record’s most immediate and enjoyable song, the rest of Good Sad Happy Bad feels very repetitive and amorphous in comparison.
Though Micachu and the Shapes have long been classified as art pop, this new album finds the group superficially experimenting with hip-hop—an artistic choice that doesn’t quite work with the band’s preexisting sound. Another misstep the band makes may have been an over reliance on improvisation, as Good Sad Happy Bad was largely built from rehearsal recordings by drummer Marc Pell. While this approach occasionally makes the album feel like a fondly remembered jam session, the sheer monotonousness of this technique makes the band sound caged in by their formula.
Taken on their own, each of the songs on Good Sad Happy Bad resemble sketches rather than finished soundscapes. Taken as a whole, the album comes across as nothing more than a gratuitously long demo tape. Ultimately, Good Sad Happy Bad exists as a collection of songs that carry little distinguishing character, created by a talented—but still very green—band.