With today’s North American release of their fourth studio album, beloved seven-piece, Welsh indie-rockers Los Campesinos! have turned down the fuzz and amped up the sadness on their appropriately titled Hello Sadness. The new album is very obviously the Los Campesinos! we know and love, but with a fuller, more mature sound as they move away from the screeching and preserve that infectiously singable center.
Hello Sadness starts off with “By Your Hand,” which was released as a free download on the band’s webpage in September. Saturated with the choruses and heavy drums Los Campesinos! does oh-so-well, “By Your Hand” is the happiest tune on the record. It practically assaults the listener with the beginning chorus and then moves seamlessly in and out of beautiful choruses, spoken word and lone synth notes. The line “Here it comes, this is the crux, she vomits down my rental tux” has all the silliness of previous songs, in addition to a darker, more sinister undertone that looms throughout the record. Gareth’s voice breaks a little when he sings “remember what your heart is for” the first time. That little break only becomes more pronounced as the album proceeds further and further into the sadness saturating the record.
“Songs About Your Girlfriend” starts off in the same vein as “Knee Deep at ATP” but instead of lapsing into melancholia, it just goes harder on the guitars, making it the heaviest song of the ten. It opens with the most perfect line: “You do not like us ’cause your girlfriend likely does” and only gets better from there. The female vocal harmonies sound much like the ones that make Ra Ra Riot so good.
The new elements from both songs funnel into the absolutely perfect title track “Hello Sadness.” The song piles on layers of sound as each instrument starts one after the other, culminating into a blend of absolutely everyone singing, or playing, or both. The line “It’s only hope that springs eternal, and that’s the reason why this dripping from my broken heart is never running dry” is sung, shouted, said, repeated, and should be blasted from car stereos, from headphones, from rooftops. Lead vocalist Gareth Campesinos! sets the tone for the rest of the record when he spits out “Goodbye courage, hello sadness again.”
There’s an incessant, pervasive beat that manifests in some form through every song, starting with the clapping in “Life is a Long Time” and the drums in “Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions).” The guitars in each song seem like they’re keening with some sort of unpronounceable, profound sorrow. Los Campesinos!’s songwriting talent is shown in the lines “Between my waterfalls and your landslides there’s cartography in every scar” and “You can lead a horse to water, but it won’t drown itself.” Gareth’s lilting melodies in the verses work impossibly well with the multitude of instruments that surround his voice, at times burying it, but always making the song that much more beautiful with every wave of sound.
“Hate for the Island” is synthy and dreamy. It seems to fill the mind with Gareth’s boyishly honest voice, and the end is almost like falling asleep.”The Black Bird, The Dark Slope” picks up the pace again with cymbal taps, and Kim Campesinos!’s gorgeous voice is finally heard in this wonderfully gory, surprisingly danceable number. It sounds the most like previous Los Campesinos! releases, but comes out on the darker side once again. Great as they are, don’t listen too closely to the lyrics if you have a sensitive stomach; they rip out your heart almost as effectively as the blackbird rips out the narrator’s guts.
The cowbell intro and sliding guitar strums on “To Tundra” effectively give the impression that the listener and the song’s narrator will never conceivably feel happiness ever again. If that didn’t do it, the line “Take a body to water, take a body to tundra – just take me with you as well” sung twice with one, pleading “please” between them will. It’s the kind of song that fills your soul and empties it out, leaving you hollow and absolutely ready for “Baby I Got the Death Rattle.” The song is a little awkward in the lyric “miniscule slice…es,” as if it’s been squeezed into the verse, but the contrast between the thumping bass drum and the twangy ukulele is Hello Sadness at it’s heart – catchy indie-pop with an incredible, deep despair. The first half ends with the line “You – you are an angel and that’s why you pray. And I am an ass and that’s why I pray. If you are tomorrow I’ll be today and this is the end” right before launching into a (dare I say it) crazy-joyful second half. It’s practically bursting with uniquely Los Campesinos! magic with a shout-along repetition of “not headstone, but headboard, is where I wanna be mourned!”
“Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II” starts and ends like an eerie carnival tune. Gareth practically croons the album to completion with “but they request that I leave ’cause my sad eyes are too much to bear.” There’s an intense attention to detail, as if the protagonist is composing a sonnet to his muse, singing of her pelvis, her stretch marks, her “swan necks,” culminating in “oh for the sound of your pissing through the thin walls or strokin’ your head.” The lyrics are a perfect example of Los Campesinos!’s ability to write songs that encompass the gross and beautiful aspects of life and love, backed up as always by impossibly complex instrumentals and perfect waves of “ooohs.” The last notes are the lilting, fading, almost dying sounds of plucking strings – the pounding, driving beat that fought its way into every song finally giving up the ghost.
It’s a sad end, but it only makes you want to listen all over again. Hello Sadness welcomes adulthood and heartache with an open hand, greeting it like an old friend and then drowning in it.
- By Your Hand
- Songs About Your Girlfriend
- Hello Sadness
- Life is a Long Time
- Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)
- Hate For The Island
- The Black Bird, The Dark Slope
- To Tundra
- Baby I Got the Death Rattle
- Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II