Review : Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
PitchforkThe music of Los Campesinos! has always been about straddling the line between sincerity and irony. It's a tough game to play, but thanks to songwriter Gareth Campesinos' wry humor and self-deprecation, the band has been able to make a career out of writing songs where breakups literally equal death. The music is intensely personal, but it's equally as inclusive-- Gareth paints himself as having it worse than anyone, but the unspoken acknowledgment that makes the band churn is that he really just has it as bad as everyone else.
Hello Sadness is the band's fourth album, and though not much has changed with the band itself, the ground underneath which LC! stand has shifted. Gareth's style of writing-- naked oversharing that goes far past the margins of his pad-- used to feel like a natural outgrowth of the type of discourse found at places like LiveJournal and Blogger, but those mediums are dinosaurs now, replaced by the opacity of Tumblr and the short, controlled blasts of Twitter. Likewise, the band's serrated twee is not exactly in fashion in the world of indie rock right now, a truth that's an undercurrent of their announcement late last year that they would be distributing a quarterly fanzine. But, if LC! are the last men and women left holding the flag for an antiquated era of indie rock, it has only intensified their vitality to those looking for more than chillwave's call to tune in, turn on, and drop out.
Though the album is arguably the band's darkest yet, it starts off with both the album's peppiest song and one of LC!'s best singles to date. "By Your Hand" finds Gareth at the very infancy of a budding romance, and it casts him as a sort of lovable hero, a role that he inhabits when he's not, say, fantasizing about burning the skin off his hands before going to a palmist. Gareth narrates himself initiating another round of dirty texting before breaking into one of the more memorable passages he's penned: his fooling around with "fate"-- "a cruel mistress, girl"-- who suggests that the two go back to her place, where "fate" then, naturally, vomits on him. He does this with gusto, which is accentuated by the chorus, wherein the entire band shouts, "By your hand is the only end that I foresee." The exuberance, not just for the romance itself but for his eventual end at the hand of his lover, is crucial to Gareth's ability to write songs about what happens when the relationship is at the other end of the spectrum. We know that he's always coming back for more, even when the rest of us can't stomach it....full text
SpinLos Campesinos! can't stop adorning their odes to existential grief with snappy handclaps, but the Welsh septet are still showing signs of growth on this third album. Keyboards, horns, and strings crescendo harder than ever on the title track, and the interlocking backing vocals of Ellen and (the now- departed) Harriet Campesinos! soar like an indie glee-club choir on "Songs About Your Girlfriend." But even as he approaches Belle and Sebastian levels of chamber-pop craft, frontman and Morrissey/Malkmus acolyte Gareth always sounds giddy that someone crushed his heart and gave him an excuse to write another word-drunk cry of despair....full text
GuardianWritten while reeling from the scorpion sting of heartbreak, Gareth Campesinos' lyrics to his band's fourth album are navel-gazing in the extreme. The Black Bird, The Dark Slope transmutes his sense of despair into the figure of a crow that "wants to rip me limb from limb"; the song's apogee of self-pity comes when he wails "so sad to be me". When not focusing on his navel, Gareth obsesses over the "two pools of mud" that are his eyes. He sustains a complex cartographic metaphor in Life Is a Long Time, in which his eyes' veins and wrinkles form a map of miseries; otherwise, his eyes are, like the rest of him, sad, sad, sad. But if Gareth is suffocated by woe, fellow frontman Tom doesn't indulge him with excessive sympathy: instead, his music ranges from the trumpet-embellished euphoria of By Your Hand to the choppy rhythms of Baby I Got the Death Rattle with impressive delicacy and unusual restraint....full text
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