“Are You Happy?” from Wisconsin’s AV Super Sunshine is released in three different mixes, a radio, club, and rock version, respectively. The radio version has the same rock and electronic hybrid edge defining many of their past releases. It is fascinating to listen to a band so skilled at balancing the past and present in a single package, but it is all the more impressive to hear them do it and never lose their way or reduce the song to a mishmash of sound. The contrast between the synthesizer driven melody and live drumming facilitates a connection between the song and its listeners that crackles from the first and never loses you. The song is cut to an ideal length making it an easy choice for radio play.
Other musical instruments are present in the radio mix. The guitar and keyboards are a little lost in the radio mix, but nonetheless are present in the song. They combine in a dense way, but “Are You Happy?” retains a fleet footed musicality despite the density. The entire track isn’t that way however. AV Super Sunshine change things up at all the right points and the musical push of the song track dissipates into atmospheric bridges and instrumental breaks that round off the tune in a satisfying way. The vocals are twofold. There is a lead vocal coupled with band member Philomena’s contributions on backing vocals. She isn’t present in every line, but she comes into the song with a refreshing vocal tone that juxtaposes well with the lead vocal.
The two vocalists do a five star job of adding a lot of oomph to the track and those aforementioned atmospheric moments and they are clearly singing with the music rather than positioning their voices against the music. They do an exceptional job of making the lyrics come alive for listeners without ever outshining the music. The club mix is an extended treatment of the radio track, a little over six minutes long, and AV Super Sunshine takes the chance to stretch the song out to its limit. The same dynamics at play in the radio mix are present in the club mix, but this version obviously pushes more percussive elements of the song and develops the melodic elements of the song in a much slower fashion. The rock mix is cut from a different cloth. There are none of the frills present in this version we hear from the other mixes, though the presence of keyboards obviously nods in a way to their electronic influences. The drumming, guitar, and vocals possess a lot of bite.
AV Super Sunshine is continuing their ascent into the musical consciousness of music devotees around the world and “Are You Happy?” will only hasten their rise. It is a memorable single that doesn’t take shortcuts, shows discipline and focus alike, and sparks with fire and passion. It bodes well for the entirety of Candyland Vol. 1 and will undoubtedly leave a mark on anyone encountering AV Super Sunshine for the first time.