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Surpassed Beauty in Happy You Near

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By Madeleine Rice
Music Journalist

Artist: Noise For Pretend
Album: Happy You Near
Label: HUSH
Release Date: February 2, 2002

Jazz excites the senses and floods the soul. Every instrument is at war, yet they all work in tandem. Held together with precision and quick thinking, improvisation is key. Rock music defies the bounds of classicalism, rebellion a usual tic, and provides an outlet for freedom, anger, complexity, easiness. The combination of the two genres, when done well is nothing short of refreshing and ensnaring.

My musical dictionary is constantly growing. Whenever granted free time, I invest myself in two things: practicing guitar and scrolling through undiscovered works on Spotify, the latter fairly often but never to a  degree of satisfaction. Upon embarking on a search for new favorites, whether songs, albums or bands, the one quality I’m on the hunt for is newness. I don’t care for dates of release nearly as much as I care for individualistic sounds, and once I catch wind of something previously unknown and gravitational I’ll host a period of obsession. The difficulty to create“newness” in this age is certainly possible, but very difficult.

Falling in love with an artist tends to be a rarity, but Noise For Pretend stopped me in my tracks, and their debut Happy You Near-also their final album-climbed to a unforeseen height on my list of personal favorites.

The band consisted of drummer Christian Cochran and guitarist Ben Workman, as well as lead singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding. My intense and concentrated respect and admiration for Esperanza Spalding runs deep; her natural talent and musical cognition surpasses that of most and more importantly, her perspective of melodies as a spectrum makes the possibilities for harmonic differentiation limitless and rule breaking to the most pleasant degree. Those who can’t bring themselves to connect with her far jazzier side from recent years may find themselves clinging to the indie nature of a younger Spalding more.

There isn’t a single song that I deem “lesser” than the rest. However, there are a couple that stand out in aesthetic attraction. The vocal emotion in “Melatonin Head” is highly moving and graceful. “Due to Lamplooking” is smoothly driving with a punchy and rythmic upright bassline that cinches the listener within seconds. Spalding fuels the song with her impressive playing and the perfect accentuation of the guitar line drives the melody beyond expectation.

I ponder whether my astonishment upon first listen was due to the smallness of Noise For Pretend’s following, the brief time in which the band remained, or the fact that I found out following my discovery of it that Spalding was a member. Perhaps it’s the beautiful melancholic nature of some of the guitar lines, or the groove of the bass in line with the drums, or the smoothness of the singers. It’s hard to say what causes its deepness and fluidity.

Happy You Near was too quickly overlooked upon release in 2002 and I find it essential to broadcast the artwork’s intricacy and color in hopes of inspiring its overdue recognition. If granted the time, focus on every element and don’t allow the sound to slip through your fingers. So much of its beauty relies on concentration and true appreciation of music as art and a deeply genuine form of expression.

Here’s a link to their Bandcamp.

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