Lisa Germano

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Happiness Review

by Heather Phares

On 1993's Happiness, Lisa Germano delivered on the promise that her debut On the Way Down from the Moon Palace suggested she had. Both more ambitious and more accessible than her first album, Happiness swaths her ethereal-yet-earthy melodies in a rich, shimmering production courtesy of Malcom Burn. Originally released by Capitol, 4AD re-released the album once Germano switched labels; the label's head, Ivo Watts-Russell, remixed certain tracks like the folky dream pop of "Destroy the Flower" and the scathing "Sycophant," bringing out the songs' melancholy, wistful tendencies. However, even the Capitol version of Happiness has plenty of both of those qualities. Just as Germano mixes the delicate with the down-to-earth in her music, she uses her fragile voice to express uncomfortable, sad, and occasionally funny sentiments, as on the bitchy, jaded "Bad Attitude," where she sings "You wish you were pretty/But you're not/Ha ha ha" with equal amounts of cynicism and idealism. With "The Dresses Song," she turns what would be a flirty pop song in anyone else's hands into an ambivalent compliment: "You look at me so fragile/You make me think about nothing/It feels so good like that." Happiness also expands Germano's musical palette, ranging from jangly pop like "Puppet" and "Energy," to the brooding, droning rock of the title track and "Everyone's Victim," to the haunting, proto-trip-hop instrumental "Miamo-Tutti" (named for one of Germano's cats). The spooky, vulnerable final song "The Darkest Night of All" is a forerunner of the dark, riveting territory she'd cover on Geek the Girl; as a whole, Happiness finds Germano moving toward a remarkable emotional honesty, which makes the album all the more captivating.

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