It has often been said that a band’s hardest album to make is their second album. The album after expectations have been placed based on markers established by their first album. While Happy Endings may have been hard to make for a band spinning plates between family obligations, tours, songwriting appointments and the very recording of the album, Old Dominion makes it all seem effortless. It’s not only a continuation of the formula from the Gold-certified debut Meat And Candy but also expanded on thanks to expansive melodies and sharper, more mature lyrical songs written by a band who knows who they are and what they’re good at.
With a dozen tracks, Happy Endings finds the narrator pleading with the woman of their dreams in “Be With Me” while the John Lennon-esque piano intro of “Shoe Shopping” gives away to some of the band’s trademark sing-song-y, wordy, lyrics with a great hook of “If you’re shoe shopping, why don’t you try me on for size.” This is the stuff great pop songs are made of. Strong harmonies drive the opening of “Not Everything’s About You” and that grounds the band’s southern roots and Milsap-80’s country/pop melodies while “Written In The Sand” seeks a declaration of a relationship, to see if it’s going the distance or if it’s going for speed (“Written in the stars baby or are we written in the sand”).
The melodies run deep on Happy Endings showcasing why Old Dominion has become one of the biggest bands in country music. And as proof, they serve up a twist with one of the most melodic, interesting songs on the album, “New York At Night.” The little curveball is that guitarist Brad Tursi is given the chance to be the lead vocalist instead of regular frontman Matthew Ramsey (The other members of the band consist of Geoff Sprung, Whit Sellers and Trever Rosen). "New York At Night" proves Brad Tursi’s a good lead vocalist too and he gives a Kings of Leon-like guitar solo for added measure. “A Girl Is A Gun” and “Hotel Key” both have lyrical moments that will leave you singing along while the live closer “Can’t Get You” gives folks some great insight to what makes the band so fun to see live.
Unbeknownst to fans who have only heard the radio hits is the fact that Old Dominion is quite adept at ballads and showcase as much on “So You Go,” a song about the feelings we all have gone through when you feel the ending of a relationship. “Still Writing Songs About You” is a second ballad on the project and it finds a guy who may be tangentially related to the guy in “So You Go” but this is a guy who is always inspired to write songs about the woman who owns his heart. It also feels like a cousin to “Song From Another Time.”
The mere fact that we haven’t talked about opening single “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart” is proof at how deep Happy Endings is. The band’s creativity and personality is evident in that song and the cover art of each of their three projects (This one being cross stitch). The “sophomore slump” is a very real thing in but it’s something Old Dominion needn’t worry about as they’ve successfully navigated a record with Happy Endings that suggests the band is not only here for a good time but they’re here for a long time.