Album Review: "Happy Season" by PHANGS

Mentioned in BuzzFeed’s list of “18 Emerging Artists To Watch In 2018”, PHANGS has amassed a serious core group of fans despite being a fairly new independent artist. Fans, or “Pham” as they call themselves, have gone above and beyond to hype up his music. Last year, they even rallied together to organize a string of shows across America amongst themselves. This later became known as The House Tour, which consisted of acoustic shows in fans’ living rooms.

Happy Season, PHANGS’ latest opus released on February 16, kicks off with its title track, a lush midrange dance beat mixed with smooth grooves. Lyrics like, “there’s no problems, kids just dreamin’ // you’re not alone when it’s happy season” add to the positive ambiance PHANGS aims to achieve. “Eyes off You” has more of a sensuous feel, complete with softer vocals and lyrics expressing appreciation for a partner’s imperfections. At times it falls into 90s boy band nostalgia, “I feel like a victim with you…I can’t be modest when you’re so hypnotic”, but the brief throwbacks sprinkled throughout blend well with smooth transitions between low and high-pitched vocals. The beat picks up a little bit during the chorus, setting a precedent for the next track.

Tinged with reggae and island vibes, “Good Now” is a journey through finding peace and genuine happiness in a relationship. Presented as a love letter—“I tend to look for things to go wrong but I stopped looking with you”—its subject matter makes for a feel-good upbeat tune. Unnaturally high pitched, shifted vocals during the final bridge lend an extra edge to the song, bringing in a sense of disconnect and allowing listeners to feel as if they could apply the lyrics to their own relationships.

While the first three tracks comprised of low-key cheerful pop goodness, Happy Season’s second half digs deeper into PHANGS’ emotional side. “One of those Days” introduces a funkier sound, juxtaposed with lyrical content discussing the importance of embracing sadness rather than pushing it away to maintain a false front for the world. The bass line in the bridge was a welcome surprise and aided the final chorus in emphasizing the lesson described above.

It was evident right from the start that “I Forgot You” is perhaps the most emotional song on the album. The bass carried hints of earnestness amidst a post heartbreak setting. The last line, “now I remember why I forgot you”, is a stepping stone towards moving on for good. It lets the artist claim ownership over their healing process. “Dry Eyes” picks up where “I Forgot You” left off, albeit with a slightly sarcastic approach. Featuring stunning R&B-style guest vocals from Truitt, it balances the act of bitterly calling out an ex for being manipulative while proudly declaring that their influence playing a role in providing comfort is no longer needed.

Themes that appear throughout, namely love, heartbreak, and acceptance, are all explored with mature emotional depth. Happy Season is a cohesive record that tackles the challenges of learning to embrace change without sacrificing kindness or integrity.

Recommended if you like: VÉRITÉ, Bonelang, DBMK. The album is available for purchase here and to stream here.