Friday, November 1, 2013

Gut Feeling: Los Campesinos! - No Blues

Los Campesinos! – No Blues
Wichita, 2013
While I don’t know what it’s actually like to watch a child grow up before your eyes (although, in about four-and-a-half months I’ll strat down that road), I can only imagine it’s something akin to watching Los Campesinos! grow into one of the best bands in the world over the last six years. I don’t even know if that claim is hyperbole. I feel like it might be hyperbole, but I can’t remember the last time I loved a band this much. Waiting for No Blues to drop was like waiting for Christmas morning. Like real Christmas morning when you’re ten years old and you wake up at 3:30 AM and can’t get back to sleep so you stay up watching terrible infomercials until 8 which is the unofficial reasonable time to wake up your parents. The last time I anticipated an album this violently was 2003 (See: High School, Alkaline Trio’s Good Mourning). It’s a tricky thing, waiting with baited breath for an album you are absolutely assured will be outstanding. Anything less would crush my heart. It’s a dangerous way to feel about a band. Considering you can chart Los Campesinos!’s growth over their last four albums, my Nate Silver-esque analysis led me to believe this one would be great. And I wasn’t wrong. The scary thing is that No Blues not only met my expectations, but pulled off things I wasn’t even expecting period.

After the gloominess of Hello Sadness (still one of my favorite break-up albums and favorite Los Campesinos! album to date), Los Camp return to the unadulterated twee pop of their debut EPs and filter it through every trick they’ve learned in their brief career. The one-two punch of the first two tracks—“For Flotsam” and “What Death Leaves Behind Me”—is about the giddiest music you’re going to hear all year. Packed with lush synthesizers, Gareth Campesinos’ trademark tongue-in-cheek misery, and the prettiest music and the hookiest hooks LC! have tossed together to date. Those tracks are so satisfying it’s unreal. The way this band throws so many elements into the mix and somehow makes the cacophony sound like the most controlled, organized thing ever is a miracle. That skill has always been impressive, but in the face of losing the lion’s share of its founding members over the last couple of years, it’s especially miraculous that LC! sound better than ever.

While No Blues has some of the brightest, most upbeat Los Campesinos! tracks since Hold On Now, Youngster (“Avocado, Baby” is about as pure as indie-pop gets these days, it’s so fucking good and catchy I want to fucking scream every time it pops into my headphones. Just listen the guitar riff that plays through that, goddamnit, so subtle but so good), it’s the morose moments that round No Blues into LC!s purest artifact. “Glue Me” has the line “I’ll be gloomy til they glue me in the arms of she who loves me” which is both funny and, with the sad guitars and strings swaying in the background, one of the most moving moments on the record. Watching (or listening, I suppose) to this band mature has been one of the greatest pleasures I’ve ever had as a music lover. Year after year, Los Campesinos! keep making records that are severely fun, meaningful, and built out of pure fucking joy, and these records make my life a bit better than it would be without them. It is an incredibly sentimental notion, but I’m incredibly sentimental about LC! and I will probably weep big crocodile tears whenever they break up.

What I talk about when I talk about Los Campesinos. That’s how I feel when I write up one of my favorite working bands. As soon as the album finds its way into my car stereo and stays there for two months, my drive time is spent thinking up what I could eventually say when I inevitably review it. I’ve been doing this since Los Campesinos! released their debut EP in 2007. I usually think of the band in terms of trajectory but today, in the car as I was driving around listening to Los Camp’s as expected great fifth album, I realized trajectory isn’t right. Trajectory seems to imply a downturn and Los Campesinos! keep getting better with age. 

"What Death Leaves Behind Me"

"Avocado, Baby"

Or fuck it, just listen to the whole album. If you're not hooked by those ethereal backing vox then I don't know what makes you happy and I'm sorry you cannot know joy.

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