New records from old bands can be hard to love. If I had to pick my favorite thing about the new Taking Back Sunday album, “Happiness Is,” it is how easy it was to sink into, how it’s grown to be such a reliable, satisfying record nearly two months after its release.

Listening to it today, outside of an auto shop feeling broke and defeated, I found myself flicking through old favorite songs on my iPod, largely unmoved by traditional favorites. I’d heard it all before. Then I saw the cover for “Happiness Is,” a record with just the right balance of fresh and familiar.

“So if you’re interested,
I’ll take you anywhere.
I’ll buy some beat up car,
We could get out of here,
I’ll take you anywhere that you want to go.”

~Beat Up Car
Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is

I cannot call this a pop punk record. It neither emo nor indie. Maybe it is a breed of anthemic stadium rock, derived from those sensibilities, with these big, soaring choruses, memorable bridges and high-flown drum parts, spilling over the edges with heartbreak and swagger to spare.

Lyrically, the album expands from where this band started, past the internal difficulties and crises into a more external, contextual setting. Other people’s feelings are involved now, different vantage points are considered, and a sense of place in the world is just-so explored. A rock record can be, but is usually not, a philosophical exercise. Over-ambition to understand the world in this medium can cloud any real meaning authenticity alone will provide. When you get a band like TBS, who came up as angry kids from Long Island and found themselves legions of fans, it could’ve been such an easy ending to see them try too hard. It could’ve be easy for them to fail under the weight of their own standards. Instead, I think post-reunion-with-John-Nolan TBS shows us a band that’s been around the block a time or two, and tapped into what they learned.

“Flicker flicker fade, destroy what you create
And wonder why it always ends the same.”

~Flicker, Fade
Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is

You can call this solid rock music, straight no chaser. Trendy frills are not explored. Restraint and resolve are the guiding forces, on moments like the final chorus of “It Takes More” and the utter drive of the centerstage rhythm section on “All the Way.” The lead single, “Flicker, Fade,” is slowly becoming one of my favorite songs of this spring, seemingly capturing everything I love about this band from its cutthroat honesty to great hooks, and duo vocals and memorable guitar parts. “Beat Up Car” is a standout, too, with the opening notes as rattled and ripe as you’d find on TBS albums from half a decade ago, but with a more focused attention on notes, and how to find the right wrong ones.

The best moments, I think, are the contemplative ones. A song like “Nothing At All,” which is, in my opinion, the band’s best album closer yet, builds a beautiful atmosphere for self-reflection, a tapestry of ringing guitars and echoing harmonies mirroring the album’s startlingly ambitious “Preface” opener. The last two minutes or so of “We Were Younger Then” do the same thing, and once again, the vocal trade-off between John and Adam steals the show the way it always has. You’ll hear it on this track, the fact that Taking Back Sunday has never used space in the way they have on this album, with layers upon layers of sound. The growth is evident. No longer is this band solely writing four-chord angry assaults on broken hearts and fevered fights among friends.

Taking Back Sunday won’t ever write “Tell All Your Friends” again. But they don’t have to.

“You wait in the dark for the music to soothe you to sleep
Swallow your fears
Become them eventually.

You sit like King David,
Watching women through windows and walls
Chase your desires until you find nothing at all.

Until you find nothing at all,
Until you find nothing at all,
Until you find nothing at all,
Until you find nothing at all.

I shake my heavy head and find ways to shift the blame,
I hate the rules but I still play the game.
I got an eye on the prize,
Another on the clock on the wall,
I get what I want until I want nothing at all.

Until I want nothing at all,
Until I want nothing at all,
Until I want nothing at all,
Until I want nothing at all.”
~ Nothing At All,
Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is