Chip King and Lee Buford have an uncanny ability for combining elements one wouldn’t normally think could possibly work together. Their latest release, No One Deserves Happiness is equal parts dismal, beautiful, and a little strange. The opening track, “Wanderings” starts with soft, ethereal female voices and a light beat being played behind them. The voices belong to Chrissy Wolpert and Marie Armstrong. Both return in other songs, but in “Wanderings” they sing a looping “go it alone” which becomes layered with the joining guitars and synth. The repetition of these haunting voices is later joined by King’s agonized singing. This becomes the type of opening track you have stuck in your head all day, humming “go it alone” without even realizing.
My favorite aspect of this album is how one song melds so seamlessly into another. The first time I listened I was already on the third track, “For You” when I glanced to see the track name, thinking I was still on the second. That is not to say that the songs all sound the same, they just transition so well, I never felt a break. Each song evolves from the previous and the subtle synth undertones help carry the music from one point to the next.
The juxtaposition of heavy guitar riffs and drums against 80s dance and synth tracks certainly takes the listener to very obscure and bleak places. The gospel-like singing in “Two Snakes” and “Starving Deserter” against the hellish cries and jarring synth make them my top tracks. It is unnerving to listen to in a sense. As beautiful as the female singing is, paired with the other layers of guitar, drums, and King’s vocals, it feels like an audio version of fear and isolation.
I can’t say King and Buford created “the grossest pop album of all time” as they mentioned in their press release. I don’t necessarily see this album or the music as gross. Depressing? Yes. Unnerving? Yes. But to me, it doesn’t sound gross. I think Wolpert and Armstrong keep the music from falling into that category with their voices which are at once powerful but also could disappear on a breeze.
Each element of this album, is exactly where it should be. The structure and craft of the songs all fit together perfectly. One misplaced piece and none of it would work. It really is beautiful to hear in its entirety. It is down a dark hall and around a corner where you will find it, but the beauty is there, just hidden.