Sneaks Flexes Talent and Versatility on 'Happy Birthday'

Sneaks Flexes Talent and Versatility on 'Happy Birthday'
If there is anything Sneaks has revealed about herself thus far, it is that she is a master at giving it her all while also not giving a fuck. This is characteristic of Eva Moolchan's minimalist take on post-punk, but it is not always black and white — on her energizing sophomore LP, It's a Myth, the scale tipped more towards the giving-it-her-all side. On the other hand, Moolchan's disorienting 2019 release, Highway Hypnosis, clearly favoured not giving a fuck. The latest Sneaks project, Happy Birthday, reinforces Moolchan as a talented but volatile artist with highs and lows.

"Faith," the album's second track, showcases Sneaks at her best, with a groovy bassline at its foundation and a swing-infused drum machine reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem. On "Sanity," things move downtempo with ice-cold, trap inspired drums and a slow, ominous buildup. "Scorpio on Your Side" is yet another song that is memorable while simultaneously being impressively unique. Lush, Playboi Carti-type synths are certain to entrance listeners, and Moolchan's flow sounds equally sedated and commanding, as though she is both the hypnotist and the hypnotized.

But while Happy Birthday's memorable tracks veer in exciting and peculiar directions, in the album's low points it seems that Sneaks is going nowhere at all. The opening track, "Do You Want to Go Out Tonight," has some interesting production, but the oft-repeated title lyric becomes boring very quickly. At other low points, such as "Mars in Virgo" and "Slightly Sophisticated," Sneaks murmurs lyrics that sound like a freestyle, offbeat and in a nearly monotone voice, emanating a vibe that feels bleak and uninspired.

Eva Moolchan reaches new heights in her career on Happy Birthday, but not without encountering a few bumps in the road. Even at its questionable points, though, there is something beautifully refreshing about a new Sneaks album — Moolchan is having fun, and she doesn't care what you think about it. (Merge)