The Happy Bullets

Yes, they're happy. Songs like "The World Is a Magical Place" and "The Day After Albert Changed the World" are as whimsical and ecstatic as anything that ever twinkled Snoopy's toes. Their dippy Day-Glo album art would make Austin Powers blush. But that doesn't mean Dallas' Happy Bullets don't dabble in the dark side. Consider the opening lines of the deceptively titled "A Perfect Day": "It's a perfect day to fall apart/With her fingers splayed, she sleeps on subway carts." The 13 songs assembled here are musical paradoxes, stories of fear and pain set to impossibly catchy, upbeat tunes. Like the band's name, and album title, Blue Skies and Umbrellas repeatedly acknowledges one of life's simple truths: Things get tough, but that's no reason to stop dancing. Helmed by husband-and-wife team Jason and Andrea Roberts along with Timothy Ruble, the Happy Bullets show real songwriting muscle, bolstering their fun, literate songs with an ever-revolving instrumental lineup, from the boisterous blast of horns to the tinkle of a toy piano. Their sound changes up, too, betraying influences from the piano-pop of Ben Folds Five to the sing-along psychedelia of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's. The album is so ambitious that it's hard to fault the band for its weaknesses--some off-key notes and a bizarre mess of a hidden track. But overall, this is the kind of music that makes me undeniably happy. And, well, sad.

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