Happy Hour

Hollie Cook

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Happy Hour Review

by Paul Simpson

Hollie Cook's 2018 effort Vessel of Love was an indubitable career highlight, matching smartly written songs with lush, creative production, and demonstrating her growth as both a singer and lyricist. It fittingly topped Billboard's Reggae Albums chart and received enthusiastic reviews. Following the record's success, she released two non-album singles, including a cover of Shanks & Bigfoot's U.K. garage hit "Sweet Like Chocolate." Happy Hour, her fourth album, was in the works before the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, and she was able to spend quarantine developing and fine-tuning the songs with her bandmates. Co-produced by Hollie, drummer Ben Mckone, and keyboard player Luke Allwood, with additional production by Youth, Happy Hour, like the singer's other releases, is a dreamy, atmospheric update of lovers rock and smooth reggae-soul, filled with swaying rhythms and gently pulsating electronics. The opening title track is an appropriate soundtrack for sipping margaritas at a beachside bar in the Caribbean, yet its lyrics describe being unable to enjoy this picturesque scene due to heartbreaking loneliness. She responds to this with the self-assured "Moving On," backed by sly disco strings and a touch of dubby effects. Several songs are about various methods of self-care, including ganja ode "Kush Kween," which features a feisty guest verse by Jah9. "Unkind Love" has some of the album's bitterest lyrics as well as its most yearning vocal hook, and Hollie still feels like she's recovering from a devastating breakup on the sparkling, dub-heavy "Love in the Dark." Nevertheless, she persists, and the record ends with messages of hope and redemption. The celebratory, horn-splashed "Move My Way" channels the choppy rhythms of U.K. garage and broken beat, and "Praying" sounds closer to vintage roots reggae, as Hollie puts her faith in love and dreams. Happy Hour isn't quite as euphoric as Vessel of Love, and not every song hits the same way, but it's certainly Hollie Cook's most mature work yet, and it's still a highly delightful listen, despite the darker subject matter.

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