Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Blue October – I Hope You’re Happy

Who wouldn’t be happy with laser eyes?

Hannah Jocelyn: Blue October has one of the most fascinating, personal trajectories of any band, their sound entirely dependent on Justin Furstenfield’s mood. Only fitting that they’ve made some of the most beautiful pop music I’ve ever heard (“Into the Ocean”) and some of the ugliest, if not downright worst (“The Flight”). After a back-to-basics record and a detour into soft rock, the group’s landed not far off from where they were. From the instant I heard the new wave beat, it was clear they returned to form — “Into the Ocean” was always more indebted to When In Rome and other ’80s bands than it was to literally anything else on the radio in 2006, and hearing multi-tracked, hypercompressed Furstenfields in a sea of indie-rock dreariness gives that same effect.  Justin finally sounds grounded after a career of both creative and personal instability, and there’s very little of the passive-aggressiveness that colored even his sweeter songs in the past. His voice has always been intense, which normally makes his happier songs jarring (especially the endearing but slightly unsettling “Home”) but he slays his performance here. A band — and frontman — with as complicated a history as this one, with increasingly baffling creative decisions and unpleasant lyrics, makes “I Hope You’re Happy” all the more rewarding to those who kept in touch.

Will Adams: “Hate Me” gave me the wrong impression of Blue October; it wasn’t until I discovered their Imogen Heap collab from the same album that I recognized their soft rock potential. “I Hope You’re Happy” finds a middle ground. Justin Furstenfield’s voice is still gravelly, but when paired with the driving, synth-kissed production, he manages to give sincerity to the central sentiment.

Alfred Soto: Guess what? I’d never heard “Hate Me” until last Tuesday. With its title callback to Elvis Costello, “I Hope You’re Happy” is a model of coiled rancor. The mix — as wrinkle-free as a shirt on a mannequin — helps songwriter Justin Furstenfeld’s cause.

Micha Cavaseno: Have you ever wondered what in the world The National would sound like through a Ric Ocasek filter, and was less “middle-aged dad resents his slow slide into domesticity” and more “skeezy divorcee stares a little too long at someone two decades younger in misguided yearning”? Well folks, have I got the song for you…

Nortey Dowuona: Flat, banal, nasal. Drifting, boring synths, near invisible guitars, rigid, caged drums, whinging singing. If this is sincere, it’s bad. If this is sarcastic, it’s worse.

Julian Axelrod: I’ve always steered clear of Blue October, assuming they were just aggressive dude rock in the vein of Staind or Stone Sour. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear a soaring, wounded power ballad that sounds like Kings of Leon covering Huey Lewis & the News. Like most rock hits in 2018, there’s more than a little Antonoff in its DNA. But unlike most rock hits in 2018, it’s a decidedly masculine breakup ballad that doesn’t feel vindictive or cruel.

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