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© 2016 by SIDE TRACKED RECORDS, LLC

Anybody can have their “rock,” “punk” or “folk” phase—real artists transcend boundaries and genres so gracefully that their fans hardly blink an eye. Aimee Allen is that type of songwriter. The explosive, outspoken voice behind modern rock monsters “Revolution” and “If It Feels Right” (not to mention contributions to the Grammy-nominated Hairspray soundtrack and multiple best-selling, critically-acclaimed artists) unveils a more serene side of her personality on A Little Happiness. Despite her decision to record the album in the depths of a desolate Indiana winter, Happiness radiates her sense of home in the California sunshine—its 11 introspective, largely acoustic tracks conjure the simple bliss of a drive down to the Pacific.

 

The record may define chill, but its conception was anything but. After separating with boyfriend and collaborator Scott Russo of Unwritten Law (Scott & Aimee delivered the scathingly sensual cult hit Sitting in a Tree in 2007), Allen’s quest to embark on her solo project was interrupted by a random gang assault outside of an L.A. recording studio last summer. “I never thought I would be able to sing again,” she remarks. “I have some memory loss, too, which is great. Turns out getting nearly beaten to death was probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” Allen did recuperate, recovering just in time to perform her songs for punk-rock Presidential candidate Ron Paul before a sold-out arena in Minneapolis. Still, the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder altered her outlook on music. “Anything that was distorted, loud or angry overloaded my senses,” she says. Reggae always makes me happy, so this record has a lot of that sprinkled in, and I’m excited that I made a record where I can smile and dance onstage, instead of scream at people every night.”

 

Allen is proud that her album is free of production shortcuts, refreshingly simplified and eschewing the synthetic for the organic. Happiness is just as animated in its stories of heartbreak as its celebrations of getting over it, exemplified in both “Change in Weather” and “On Vacation.” Yet, there is an undercurrent of spiritual and social commentary throughout. “Calling the Maker” (which features one of the few samples on the album, taken from one of the first instances of recorded sound in the United States) is her plea for mercy on Judgment Day. Allen confronts organized religion while exposing her own naked fallibility in “God Talks,” and in “Save Me” (co-written with Linda Perry), implies that no one can change her but God.

 

The title of the record really says it all—on A Little Happiness, she courageously explores the reaches of elation and despondency, but never strays too far from the healthy, cautious optimism that defines her signature autobiographical storytelling. Allen’s strongest collection of songs to date honors the painful journey she took to create them. "I've made a lot of lyrically shocking and dark music in the past. But once you have a brush with death, things change. I'm just stoked I've made a record that shines a little light, ya know?"

 

AIMEE ALLEN