AV Super Sunshine
The radio mix of AV Super Sunshine’s “Are You Happy?” stands as one of the best singles the Wisconsin based band has yet to release. Included on their album release Candyland Vol. 1, “Are You Happy?’ carries on the tradition of fine songwriting AV Super Sunshine has established since first emerging. There are two additional mixes included with the release, a rock and club version, but the radio mix is sure to capture the attention of many listeners. It is led, primarily, by electronic instrumentation and the synthesizer powered melody is one of the most memorable sonic contributions to any of the three versions of this single release. It has a visceral quality, as well, thanks to the crack live drumming dropping in at key points throughout the track. The blending of live and programmed musical components gives the radio mix a full, robust sound impossible to ignore.
The vocals in the radio mix are a little subsumed by the storm of sound swirling around the band’s two primary voices. Philomena’s backing vocals are a little too obscured for my taste, but you can discern her reaching out from the sonic maelstrom and connecting with listeners despite everything going on around her, but the radio mix would be much more effective than it already is if we could latch on tighter to the band’s singing. The lead vocal stands out a little more but suffers a little from the same problem. It is a missed opportunity, but not a fatal flaw to the radio mix in any way. They are able to convey the song’s message despite these obstacles. I can appreciate the unflinching question reflected by the song title and the songwriting pushes that question on listeners without ever overwhelming them and in terse, musically inclined language. It complements the musical arrangement of the radio mix well. The words possess a percussive quality I listen for in any song purporting to boast a strong rock influence and it helps drive home the point of the song for listeners without ever sounding overwrought.
I love the synthesizer melody running through much of the radio mix, but the drumming pushes things along with an equal amount of energy. Attentive listeners will detect the presence of other instruments like different keyboard sounds and guitar and the song, overall, has a rough hewn quality that nonetheless lands with listeners in a convincing fashion. The rock mix, however, cuts out the synthesizers and any hint of electronic treatment, while still retaining the keyboard work, and connects with listeners in an immediate way. The vocals are far clearer as well and Philomena, in particular, shines. The club mix is an extended reshaping of the radio mix, far more focused on its intended audience rather than the broad based approach we hear in the other two versions. The three mixes, taken together, make for a powerful invocation of where AV Super Sunshine find themselves in 2019 – near the peak of their powers and with glories awaiting them on the long road ahead.