Animals That Swim

Happiness from a Distant Star

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Despite its eclectic range, Happiness From a Distant Star is cohesive in its distillation of absurdity and joie de vivre and its revelation of simple beauty within the mundane. It contains visceral, intricate pop replete with delicate melodies and driving refrains. Hugh Barker's adept songwriting ability shines on "Seven Days," which is about the beauty of aging as demonstrated through a look at seven decade-apart birthday celebrations. Also covered with subtlety and sophistication are predestination, need versus desire, spiritual decline, UFOs, and fear of flying. The hook-laden standout "Homunculus," a cheeky look at self-creation, recalls late-'60s psychedelic folk-pop. Full-bodied melody is enhanced throughout by Derek Crabtree's atmospheric muted trumpet work.

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