Grant Olney

It’s no wonder Olney took the better part of six years to record his second solo album, Hypnosis for Happiness. In that time he also wrote a three-hundred page dissertation on theorem proving in high-dimensional geometry. Though the stops and starts (not to mention the fire) along the way were frustrating, his energy for the album never failed. The result is a warm, inviting collection of folk/pop that shows off Olney’s melodic acumen and lyrical depth.

Here’s the circuitous path that Olney took to get to this point: the initial sessions for Hypnosis began back in 2006 in Austin, Texas, but were immediately waylaid by a fire that broke out at The Sweatbox, the studio where he had been booked to record with Dave Dondero and Mike Vasquez. They managed to knock out a couple of songs (including “Let Love Be,” featured on the new album), but had to put the project on the shelf.

From there, Olney moved overseas to concentrate on his mathematics work in Holland and the UK, while also finding time to write songs that would eventually become part of another project, Olney Clark. That group completed one album and started work on a follow-up before disbanding in 2010. Two of the songs (“Not From Body” and “Looking Over You”) recorded during those aborted sessions ended up on Hypnosis. Olney finally wrapped up the album with producer Eddy Hobizal in late 2011/early 2012 in another Austin studio.

As with all great musicians/songwriters, Olney doesn’t allow Hypnosis to reflect its scattershot creation. Rather, the whole album feels like a complete document that, if you didn’t know the backstory, you might think was knocked out in a day. The songs bristle with electrical energy (the cello-led, A.C. Newman-esque “Auntie Why”) or unfold with delicate shuffling beats and piano undertones (“Josefin the Writer”). And through it all, Olney’s wistful vocals hold sway, commenting on love, obsession, aging, and the afterlife.

If there’s a theme to Hypnosis for Happiness in Olney’s view, it is wondering what it really means to get to know someone, particularly through their creative endeavors. We all feel like we have a sense of who our favorite writers, musicians, directors, painters, etc., are by examining their works. But does that take precedence over the actual person? Heady thoughts, to be sure, but, because Olney wraps up these ideas in such engaging melodic language, they burrow deep into your brain only to be fully revealed upon multiple listens.

In the case of Grant Olney, there’s plenty to be learned simply from enjoying his long career as a musician (he started with the punk bands Substandard and The Record Time before going solo). He’s a thoughtful musician and songwriter with a great ear for a timeless melody and lyrics that alternately sting and soothe. And that although it may have taken him six years and the use of the full spectrum of musical colors, the result is an album that is as close to a masterpiece as you’re likely to hear.

Hypnosis for Happiness is out July 2nd, 2013!


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IMAGES: To download, click above.

MP3: “Not From Body”

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