Album Review: Old Dominion’s ‘Happy Endings’

The men of Old Dominion have become known for blending the lines of humor and music in a way that’s both entertaining and compelling – a fact still rings true on their latest project, Happy Endings. The album finds them in a slightly more poignant place than on 2015’s Meat and Candy, while still flaunting their clever personalities and unique songwriting style.

The album opens with the breezy, yet empowering lead single, “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart,” which encourages the listener to embrace hope and keep dreaming in spite of the world’s turmoil. The eclectic “Shoe Shopping” finds lead singer Matt Ramsey whipping out every possible word or phrase relating to picking out a pair of shoes while tying it to love in the process. “If you’re going shoe shopping, walk a mile with me, slip a Cinderella slipper right on your feet,” he sings.

It’s safe to say one won’t be able to resist bopping along to “Be With Me,” one of catchiest tracks on the album. “Next to you the sun can’t even call itself a light,” the lyrics praise in a song about a woman who was taught she could be anything she wanted in life. “So why don’t you be with me?” the singer begs.

Old Dominion; Cover art courtesy of RCA Records Nashville

Old Dominion; Cover art courtesy of RCA Records Nashville

While the phrase “Written in the Sand” may bring to mind the image of a beach vacation, writing a sweet phrase with a loved one along the oceanfront, the band manages to alter its meaning and turn it into a question about a love they’re trying to determine is temporary or longer lasting in the song of the same name. “Are we written in the stars baby or are we written in the sand?” they question. The play-on-words pattern is equally as strong on “Girl With a Gun,” comparing the fiery spirit of a woman to that of a powerful weapon. “She feels good in your hand from the first little spark, but gun’s shoot bullets and bullets break hearts,” the group warns. “She’ll kill you with a kiss, so be careful when you’re holding one.”

A sweet surprise comes in the form of “Stars in the City,” which features subtle, yet soothing harmonies from Little Big Town. But a true standout is that of “New York at Night” where guitarist Brad Tursi steps from behind the instrument and takes the lead on vocals. Old Dominion almost sound like a different band on the track – and we mean that as a compliment – as they transport the listener to a bustling street in the Big Apple amidst the nighttime excitement. “Girl you’re like a model on Soho street, walking on air like you own it,” Tursi sings confidently. “New York at Night” brings to life the band’s ability to call out specific elements, vibes and visuals of a particular place and connect it to greater concepts such as love, almost like creating light-hearted poetry.

But perhaps the song fans will most be thrilled about is the live version of “Can’t Get You,” which brings the album to a strong close. The guys say they tried to record in studio, but couldn’t capture the same magic as they do performing it live and wanted to honor the fans’ enthusiasm with the special cut. Sticking with their strengths, the rocking number is definitely a jam and it’s easy to see why it’s such a crowd energizer. The fast-moving tune leans more to the side of rock n’ roll and one can hear their passion in the performance.

Happy Endings boasts all the elements Old Dominion fans love about the band, including their diverse sound, dynamic songwriting and carefree attitude, in a way that’s joyful, but with a sense of depth. But what makes the band special is that they radiate positivity in their music, attracting the free spirits of the world with their songs, all while being clever punsters and master wordsmiths in the process. Though not a stark contrast from their previous work, Happy Endings manages to keep the band’s intoxicating carefree spirit alive while showing a sense of growth in the process.