Somewhere in the universe, where acoustic guitar meets intergalactic synths, Benji Tranter has found a place for his lo-fi, dreamy bedroom folk-pop album, Songs to Make You Happy.
Tranter dropped this 12-track record on January 20th after a lengthy recording hiatus. It holds a collage of diary entries, poems, short stories, and other brief snapshots that speak to a larger theme of finding human connection in the modern world.
For years, Tranter has been finding writing inspiration in songwriters like Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, Daniel Johnston, and Nick Drake among others. He penned two personal EPs in 2014 and 2016, and has since collaborated with his power-pop group Ski Lift, and the London-based artist Jovis Lane. He’s also currently a member of the psych-folk group The All Night Chemist. Tranter’s DIY ethos shines throughout all of his projects, and his latest is no exception.
The album opens with the titular track, “Song to Make You Happy.” Immediately, his fuzzy, endearing vocals pull you into what feels like an honest conversation between friends. He captures the album’s lighthearted spirit by inviting you to “Drop kick that sad thing and / Watch it fall down a steep ravine.” A chaotic outro of “La la las” reveals Tranter’s range in instrumentation.
The acoustic fun continues in his single, “Satellite,” which is accompanied by a fun and inventive music video. Upbeat strums and high harmonies reel you in, and he follows up with intimate verses about the feeling of knowing someone deeply. While it may go without saying given the album’s title, this happy song promises listeners “No matter how far / We’ll make a connection.”
The penultimate track, “To Your Eyes,” has a more somber quality to it, encouraging listeners to be who they are while they have the time. It sounds like a daydream put into words, as Tranter reflects on feelings of being undone and hopes of having a good year. A horn interlude and uplifting lyrics maintain a feeling of reverie and warmth in what could have easily become a more melancholic track.
Tranter closes out his contemplative record with “Song to Make You Happy (Reprise).” Much like the opener, this song serves to remind the listener of the overall message of the project: we are all capable of playing a role, no matter how small, in brightening someone else’s day. And if something is bringing you down, take some advice from Tranter, and drop kick it down a steep ravine.