Right off the bat, the title of Old Dominion's album "Happy Endings" is far better than "Meat and Candy," its prior effort. ("Meat" in an album title? Really?) But also on an artistic level, OD's follow-up shows signs of growth.
With that said, though, there's nothing on this new release as immediately catchy as "Snapback." Nevertheless, the vocal-only harmonies introducing "Not Everything's About You," are a beautiful thing. It's a breakup song, where 'girl of the present' is compared with 'girl in the past.' When they sing, "Not everything's about you any more," you get the immediate impression the self-centeredness of this former significant other played a role in the separation. "Stars in the City," which also features Little Big Town nicely singing backup, includes a jangling guitar intro. The woman described in this song sounds to be the ultimate optimist. "She sees a diamond when the world sees dust," they note. And when they add, "If she's crazy, I wanna be crazy too," you quickly realize this guy wants to be an optimist too, just like her. In addition to the Byrds-y electric guitar intro, the track also sports a backwards guitar solo, which flashes back to The Beatles' best 60s studio experimentation. Maybe it's not traditional country, but it's cool touches like these that make many of these songs memorable. "Still Writing Songs About You" is a lovely country song one can easily imagine the late Glen Campbell singing. These guys may know their rock and roll, but they are also more than adept with country.
The album closes with an especially loud guitar-backed "Can't Get You," which is played before a live, screaming audience. It's a nice bit of noise, even though it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album. Good thing they put it at the end.
When Old Dominion first arrived on the scene, one was tempted to write them off as just another pop-rock band pretending to be country. "Happy Endings," though, invites suspension of such quick judgement. The ending for these guys just might be happier than its beginning.