Entire strains of pop music exist to explore the tension between gorgeous melody and depressing lyrics. Short-story writer Joe Pernice proved himself an obsessive master of this micro-genre on this, the Pernice Brothers's 1998 debut. The music is smart, slightly decadent pop abetted by subtle, Van Dyke Parks-ish orchestral arrangements. But this is really music for folks who obsess over lyrics: "It's hard to read a simple mind" and "Your colored eye and a lipstick voice and a cough you could never shake" are just two examples of Pernice's wordplay here. The Pernice Brothers's follow-up album, 2001's The World Won't End, has its champions, but Overcome by Happiness is the best album from this talented band.