So, apparently last winter, Clare Bowditch decided that she was going to be happy. Since then, she’s written and released an album about it, and that makes me happy… In case you’ve never heard of her, Clare Bowditch is an Australian singer /songwriter of songs that always have a strong story to them, who’s also done things like interview the Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the side.
I bought the album through her website, and although it arrived ~5 days after it was released, it was a signed copy. It’s kind of strange the way they did it. The CD case was all sealed, but it came with another liner notes booklet, loose, that was signed. Below, I have reviewed the whole of “The Winter I Chose Happiness”, track-by-track in addition to as a whole.
Just like my review of Not Your Kind Of People by Garbage, it’ll work like this: I’ve written what previous song/s each track reminds me of (the album it comes from is in the brackets), and ranked it on this album, as well as writing a short comment about each track. Then at the bottom I’ve got my thoughts about “The Winter I Chose Happiness” as a whole…
- Let’s Get Happy Together
Reminds me of: No other Clare Bowditch song, but a bit of “Jeeper Creeper” by Tony Bennett and Count Basie
Rank on this album:1
Comments: A fifties-style jazz tune filled with swinging horns, honky tonk piano and jazz scat. When I heard it, I was ecstatic. I love this kind of music, and to hear an original piece in this style, in this day and age, brings light to my day. My only disappointment was that, at only 2 minutes & 10 seconds, it’s the shortest track on the album, but it’s still my favourite.
- Thin Skin
Reminds me of:A Little History (Homage to My Dad Two)(Modern Day Addiction) + Running (Modern Day Addiction) + When The Lights Went Down (The Moon Looked On), but faster.
Rank on this album:2
Comments: Fast song with a driving beat, that immerses you in a story as it is told in cryptic fragments. It’s not as cryptic as some, thanks to clear articulation. Without a doubt, you’ll find yourself humming this all day as you go about your life.
- One Little River
Reminds me of:Divorcée By 23 (What Was Left) + Yes I Miss You Like The Rain (What Was Left)
Rank on this album:6
Comments: Classic Bowditch-ian type of track with a good energy and a message about expressing yourself.
- Amazing Life
Reminds me of:Your Own Kind of Girl (Modern Day Addiction)
Rank on this album:5
Comments: A mellow, calming reflection on life, that I feel I can relate to, even at this point in mine.
- Your Love Walks With Me
Reminds me of:Between The Tea And The Toast (The Moon Looked On)+ The Thing About Grief (What Was Left)
Rank on this album:4
Comments: This track has a feeling a bit like a contemporary Christian song, with a steady rhythm running throughout. It gently tells a story fitting of a funeral; a celebration of the life of a loved one, or at least, that’s how I read it…
5.9 You Make Me Happy (Clarinet Prelude)
Hanging off the end of track 5, there’s a little, semi-hidden tune that only goes for about 30 seconds. It sounds like a marching band just trotted through the middle of the album, playing You Make Me Happy, which is actually track 10. It surprised me a little, but I really liked it. On the CD, this song appears at the start of track 6, actually playing in the negative countdown before the track starts.
- The One
Reminds me of:I Love The Way You Talk (The Moon Looked On) + The Most Beautiful Lies (Modern Day Addiction)
Rank on this album:9
Comments: The moment I hear this song, I think of Cold Chisel for some reason. It has this ring of Aussie rock to it. It’s like they’ve just swapped the guitars for pianos and Jimmy Barnes‘ course vocals for Clare Bowditch’s angelic ones.
- Cocky Lady
Reminds me of:Now You’re Home (Are You Ready Yet?) + Bigger Than The Money (Modern Day Addiction)
Rank on this album:3
Comments: Opens with just vocals before breaking into full-on swing shuffle, complete with mixed horn solos in the middle of the song. The trumpets really hook you in.
- You Will Know
Reminds me of:You Look So Good (The Moon Looked On)
Rank on this album:11
Comments: Another typical Bowditch-ian track, with a guitar picking solo in the middle.
8.9 ??? (Piano Prelude)
Like at the end of track 5, there’s a little, semi-hidden tune hanging at the end of track 8 , but this one is even shorter. It fades in and out before you have much of a chance to work out what’s going on. It has the same feel as the last one, although this one is dominated by a piano tune, which I’m yet to identify. On the CD, this song appears at the start of track 9, actually playing in the negative countdown before the track starts, just like the last one did.
- The Big Happy
Reminds me of:I Thought You Were God (What Was Left)
Rank on this album:10
Comments: There’s a prominent second voice accompanying Clare on this song. The title makes me think of this comic I found in the newspaper we were using for painting in India called “One Big Happy“, so I like it for that.
- You Make Me Happy
Reminds me of:Homage To My Dad And The ABC (Autumn Bone) + People Like Me, People Like You (The Moon Looked On)
Rank on this album:7
Comments: This song, along with the next one, is the core song of the album. It expresses the fundamental idea the whole album revolves around: happiness and a simple resignation towards happiness.
- Are You Ready Yet?
Reminds me of:Stars (Modern Day Addiction)
Rank on this album:8
Comments: I’ve already heard this track before, because it’s the title track off her latest EP. However, this version isn’t quite the same. It has a different mix of instruments, with less percussion. Like the last track, or possibly even more so, this song puts into words the message at the centre of this album: being happy and enjoying life.
“The Winter I Chose Happiness” as an album
Throughout the album, there is a rather obvious theme that’s even stated pretty clearly in the title. It’s all about happiness, and the choices we make in life that affect our enjoyment of it. Like I’ve already said, this is best expressed through the last two tracks on the album, which articulate it clearest and with the most emphasis, although each song plays it’s part to encompass a different aspect or situation in life. Together they form a concept album which uses a variety of stories to cover a theme, as opposed to telling one storyline throughout.
The mix of tracks on this album seem different to Clare’s last few albums, possibly going back to her roots a bit. I liked it, but I did crave another, more fast-moving track like Thin Skin or Peccadilloes from The Moon Looked On. I also really wish there had been more tracks like Let’s Get Happy Together, and that the hidden tracks had actually been full tracks. They’re jazz, so I just love them and could never really get enough. A whole album like that would be great as far as I’m concerned. Despite my bias, it seemed strange to keep reintroducing these jazz elements in the hidden tracks, but never following through with them by having another matching track in this style.
I’d like to note that while I’ve said that each track on this album reminds me of something on a previous album, that doesn’t mean that this album is very samey. It’s actually quite different from Clare’s previous stuff, in my opinion. Those tracks are mentioned to give you a rough feel for the track. Similarly with the ranking of the songs from No. 1 to 11, just because they’re lower down doesn’t mean I hate them; I just don’t like them as much. Your least favourite ice-cream flavour is still an acceptable favourite; it’s just that other things come before it.
Overall, the existence of “The Winter I Chose Happiness” has made me happy, so it’s fulfilled that goal. It’s had me humming its songs, with a grin on my face all week. It’s clear that Clare Bowditch knows what she’s doing, and knows how to produce a good album, and to write, not only a good song, but one that can bring lasting joy and invigoration to a person. Well done Clare, and Thank You.
Have you listened to “The Winter I Chose Happiness” yet? What did you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Do you even know who Clare Bowditch is? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comment below, or however else you would like to share them anywhere on the internet, and send me a link and I’ll post it here. ⇊
To Infinity and Beyond,