The catharsis so closely associated with Have a Nice Life isn’t as immediately present here.
In 2008, Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga quietly released an extremely lo-fi, hour-and-a-half-long existential crisis titled Deathconsciousness that, through the power of music forums on Reddit and 4Chan, became something of a cult classic. A decade on, the DIY-duo has grown into a full band and has transitioned into their music into adulthood as they have matured, started families and learned how to live beyond their own nihilism.
There is a discernable nuance and duality found on Sea of Worry that has never really been present on any Have a Nice Life or Giles Corey projects that comes in the form of a type of happiness, standing against the unrelenting depression that has come to define Barrett’s work. Whereas there was a certain desperation at the center of Deathconsciousness and The Unnatural World—the albums were both made with minimal resources, with their energy deeply focused on intense, personal depression—a contentedness with life has driven some of Barrett’s despair outward, concerning himself with external and global anxieties like ever-declining climate and the responsibilities of fatherhood in the face of what seems to be an ecological collapse.
The title track and opener is a surf-goth anthem, and as strange as it is to ride the wave of the endless bummer into a Have a Nice Life record, and even as different as the song is compared to everything else on the album, the contrast of beachy guitars and Barrett’s darkly-toned lyrics do well to introduce listeners to this newest era of unease. Further softening can be found on tracks like “Science Beat,” which, with its shimmering guitars and airy synthesizers, is not only the most gentle song on Sea of Worry, but also in the entire Have a Nice Life catalog.
The group hasn’t entirely gone soft, mind you. While a bit of the edge has been smoothed and the dirt wiped off slightly, there are still moments of good-old-fashioned loud, distorted malaise that feel quintessential. “Trespassers W” is a straightforward, hard-hitting and darkly-toned drum and guitar-led post-punk track. “Lords of Tresserhorn” transforms from a slower, calmer track into a blistering assault of noise that rivals even the second half of Deathconsciousness closer “Earthmover” and is the emotional peak of the album. “Destinos,” a song that can be found as far back as the band’s 2010 demo-collection, Voids, eases the album towards a patient, contemplative close that seems to suit the 2019 version of Have a Nice Life.
The catharsis so closely associated with Have a Nice Life isn’t as immediately present on Sea of Worry, mostly because Dan and Tim now seek a different kind of release than they have in the past—they have larger reaching concerns and more subtle means of expressing them. This means that, for the most part, the songs on Sea of Worry are a bit duller than the invigorating, draining and explosive songs presented on previous projects, but still serves as the grown-up, easy to access version of a group that is yet to release anything not worth your while. Have a Nice Life have survived into middle-age despite everything, and now they’re ready to take some time and give some extra thought towards this discomfort they’ve been sharing with us.