Pacific Northwest based Scott Shaus is craving out his own unique niche in the varied world of contemporary music. Working out of his bedroom studio, this young songwriter/musician/vocalist’s new single “Happy” is the first taste from his forthcoming album release Grinding due to land in March of this year. He isn’t a self-indulgent performer or writer in any fashion – while other musical artists may weigh down such experimental textures like we hear with “Happy” with empty flourishes or attempted “gee whiz” moments, there’s solid songcraft powering material such as this. “Happy” isn’t overlong, clocking in at a little over four minutes, and boasts a clear delineated structure, deceptively traditional values, and sparkling creativity stretching the limits of the form. It’s a winning combination.
It has an understated sound in some respects. The slightly looping quality to the verses offers listeners a sharp hook they can enjoy at first listen and revisit in the future without the song ever feeling stale or played out. There’s a deep recurring bass pulse laden throughout the track and the electronic elements of the track are warm and playful without ever lapsing into the sterile sound capable of plaguing the work of lesser musical imaginations. The mix he achieves on this recording keeps listeners involved thanks to its even handed immediacy.
His vocal highlights the strengths of the mix. The music is first and foremost rather than his singing but his voice occupies a place in the sonic composition that in no way reflects a diminished sense of importance. His voice isn’t strong is the classic sense of a pop song vocal, but it nonetheless has an atmospheric and quirky pop direction. There’s even a slightly sarcastic, but never caustic, timber to his singing style that will attract many first time listeners.
Revisiting the song’s structure, Shaus has a capacity for surprise that separates him from his peers and contemporaries alike. Listeners grow accustomed to the song’s general slant but, near its midway point, he deviates from his established line of attack and slows the song for a few crucial seconds. It varies the song’s tone without ever dragging it too far afield from its chosen course and elevates the already fine quality. His wont for upending listeners’ expectations serves him well here and will likely continue being a staple of his work.
Let us be thankful that, as wagging tongues sound a death knell for creativity in popular music, there are writers willing to imbue their material with vivid identity and creative verve. Scott Shaus hasn’t been working for long in this vein, the upcoming album release will be his third since debuting in 2016, but there is an electric feeling of possibility in this music boding well for his future recordings. “Happy” doesn’t remake the wheel, but it does reshape it into something reflecting his own image and not content with plowing well traveled fields. Those already familiar with his music will find much to admire with this single while newcomers will feel that sought after jolt of hearing something new.