The Wave Pictures – Brushes with Happiness

Experimentalism and rawness to its very core, The Wave Pictures’ triumphant return in 2018 comes in the form of Brushes with Happiness, a nine-piece DIY record which tells the story of one magical night the band spent improvising and recording this album in its entirety.

Kicking things off is ‘The Red Suitcase’ a nice slow number which delightfully sets the irrefutable melancholic sound which this album thrives on. The sheer level of minimalism on the recording allows each note to flourish, whilst the deliberately unfurnished nature of each track upholds an incredible level of grittiness and personal touch. Psychedelic undertones are definitely present through subtle guitar licks and accompanying vocalist Dave Tattersall’s gritty tones, all in all creating the kind of listen which would work not only as a background album, but as the kind of record that you’ll listen to in the pitch black at three in the morning.

Brushes with Happiness sends the listener on an emotional journey whilst maintaining its chilled out atmospherics throughout. The album’s namesake comes as a nod to drummer Jonny Helm’s constant use of drumming brushes and, despite the optimistic name, the general tone is far more dismal. Even the title track, ‘Brushes with Happiness’, comes from a far more melancholic mindset, settling for the lowest of moods and minimalism whilst stressing a message around the frivolity of life. The accompanying basslines through this track are simple, yet, more than provide the degree of excitement that is needed to keep the listen rolling.

The band have announced that this album is the first of two to be released this year, with the second expected to be far more upbeat and bouncy. It does seem somewhat bizarre to release the latter when the weather is so nice, but I guess that’s just how bands work. Nonetheless, Brushes with Happiness is certainly an album which you can delve into and captures a string of songs which combine effortlessly to produce a lonely soundscape. Perhaps it would have been nice to have a few more tracks which don’t exceed the six minute mark, however, on the whole the entire album is created with a great level of tenderness which few others achieve so well.

For myself, it is tracks such as ‘Jim’ which leave a lasting impression. One of the two tracks which are under five minutes, its surprisingly upbeat tone throws a curveball into the rest of the record’s feel, yet still oozes a nice level of intensity through a bouncy bassline and some spidery guitar work which climbs to exciting peaks through the harmonica solo. Meanwhile others, such as ‘Laces’, demonstrate a highly differing vibe and leave for some true Saturday afternoon vibes, once again the phenomenal bass work from Franic Rozycki drives the track and creates some incredibly exciting listening material.

Overall, Brushes with Happiness is a record which I can see many fans of The Wave Pictures relishing in: the sombre aura which surrounds this album is not only overwhelming with passion, but makes for a release which delivers the exact feel it was intended for, a raw and natural piece of art. For any band to have created such a cohesive record in just one night is an incredible achievement and leaves nothing but admiration for The Wave Pictures.

Ben Walker