One of the more difficult things for bands to do is to stay consistent while keeping it interesting. Los Campesinos! fourth studio release, Hello Sadness
, is what we've come to know and expect from the band, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially with a band occupying the last legs of a forgotten genre. There are no true surprises, no jarring experimentation, but the album is still different and darker in timbre, and absolutely, undeniably Los Camp. Sometimes it's nice to get what you paid for (even if you didn't actually pay).
The album kicks off with "By Your Hand," a song that leans on a catchy synth riff, infectious hand claps, and gang vocals. This song, like most on the album, is catchy and brooding. The tracks are contagious with their lush harmonies provided by the females of the group and the soaring lines of a keyboard. But as morbid as the lyrics of Los Camp can be, the tracks can be so sugary sweet that they can almost make your teeth hurt. But when you think you've had enough Los Camp knows when to tug on the reins to bring things down to a slower gear. Some of the stand out moments on the album are when they get a little morose sonically, especially with tracks like "Hate For The Island," "To Tundra," and "Baby I Got The Death Rattle."
Getting dark lyrically is something that singer Gareth Campesinos has no problem with. He ruminates on love lost, sexual frustration, and the misgivings of life with extremely personal lyrics. It seems like he can't catch a break and every misstep is sure to directly lead to the end of his days. "The dripping from my broken heart is never running dry," he sings on the title track and that is about as lighthearted as he gets. "Baby I Got The Death Rattle" finds Gareth at his lowest, most self-deprecating point. "We burnt all the skin from the palms of my hands / with an old Zippo lighter and deodorant cans / I went to the palmist and asked her to read / no heart line, no sun line, no life line, no need."
On the other hand, his voice is so welcoming and charming that it's easy to forget what he is singing about. And are we really surprised at this dynamic? The dark lyrics manage to balance out the relentlessly poppy nature of the tunes to create something quite good and memorable. The fact that we've come to expect certain things from Los Campesinos! is exactly the comfort factor we need to feel the necessary empathy to enjoy even the saddest of subject matter with a smile.
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MP3: "Hello Sadness"
MP3: "Baby I Got The Death Rattle"