Album Review: Van She - Idea Of Happiness

6 July 2012 | 5:20 pm | Matt O'Neill

Idea Of Happiness has arrived and, somewhat unbelievably, it is actually somewhat unbelievable.

With their initial meteoric rise, Van She seemed almost destined for a mere 15 minutes of fame. Arriving with spectacular timing in the mid-to-late noughties, their shimmering electro-tinged synth-pop was so utterly zeitgeist and thoroughly popular that immediate backlash and disappearance seemed almost a certainty. Their inability to deliver new material in the years following 2007 debut album, V, seemed to confirm it.

Yet, Idea Of Happiness has arrived and, somewhat unbelievably, it is actually somewhat unbelievable; daft and silly, in its own way, but remarkably well-crafted and genuinely irresistible. The band have opted for the kind of tropicalia vibes Cut Copy began to explore with last year's Zonoscope – though very much with their own slant. Fundamentally, Van She are still a pop-rock act in electronic clothes. Those clothes are just dazzling.

It's kind of ridiculous how much they've managed to pack into such relatively straightforward songs. The instrumental backdrops of the album are defined through mobility, swiftly morphing synth hooks and spontaneous bursts of colour exploding out of nowhere. It isn't messy – if anything, it's the opposite – but it's very, very busy. Fortunately, such instrumental restlessness doesn't obscure the band's songcraft.

It's that songcraft that really distinguishes the record. Its production and outlook is so tropical and gaudy that it's almost ridiculous (not to mention almost disgustingly contemporary) – but, dammit, Van She's songs are just so eminently memorable and effortlessly cool that it's near impossible to condemn their dorkiness. One suspects Idea Of Happiness may not age well but, for the here and now, it's a surprisingly exquisite record.

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