Under the name Foothands, Happ opts for a sleepier, more contemplative sound on the three songs of “Gentle But Firm.” And although this solo project has a more deliberate pace and is rooted in subdued, acoustic guitar-based ruminations, the arrangements are far from simplistic.
Happ excels at creating intricate layers of guitar-picking that sporadically burst into country-western twangs, and establishing ghostly vocal harmonies that gradually evolve into sun-kissed textures and recall the complexity of Brian Wilson’s arrangements. The middle track, “I Should Have Listened in Physics,” is particularly effective at fleshing out these details as the momentum slowly builds over the course of three and a half minutes.
That said, all three songs are in the same key, and can easily be heard as one cohesive auditory meditation. Mixed by Happ and mastered by Joseph Chudyk, “Gentle But Firm” is best listened to all the way through and without interruption. Close your eyes and drift away.
Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.