kept hearing something here which I couldn't nail
finally hit me on track 9, where the Modest Mouse was front and center
although it didn't make the grade, it could certainly be a grower
from the album - By Your Hand
released Nov 15th, 2011
from all music
Celebrating a bratty, tongue-in-cheek viewpoint and a spunky indie-punk style similar to Art Brut while applying an
assortment of instruments akin to Architecture in Helsinki, the seven-piece group Los Campesinos! (a Spanish name
that roughly translates to "the Peasants") formed in 2006 in Cardiff, Wales. The lineup took shape around Cardiff
University students Aleksandra (keyboard, horn), Ellen (bass), Gareth (glockenspiel), Harriet (violin, keyboard),
Neil (guitar), Ollie (drums), and Tom (guitar), all of whom began sharing vocals (as well as the last name of
Campesinos!). The group played their first show at a college function in May 2006; by the following August, they
had built enough of an audience to secure an opening gig for Broken Social Scene. Later that year, Los Campesinos!
signed to the U.K.-based label Wichita Recordings, which released the band's first single in early 2007.
A North American contract with Arts & Crafts followed several months later, and Los Campesinos! expanded their
catalog that summer by issuing recordings on both labels, including a second single from Wichita and an EP from
Arts & Crafts titled Sticking Fingers into Sockets. The full-length Hold on Now, Youngster... followed in early
2008. After a long tour that took up much of the year (and included a stop in Seattle to record new songs), Los
Campesinos! issued their second album, We are Beautiful, We are Doomed, in November. Another round of touring
followed, including the band's first performance in South America. By early 2009, though, Los Campesinos! had
decamped to Connecticut to record another album, Romance Is Boring, which arrived in early 2010.
After the disaster of their previous album, Romance Is Boring, it would have been easy to write off Los Campesinos!
and consign them to the scrap heap populated with bands that burned brightly and then lost it all in a flash.
Amazingly, Hello Sadness reverses the downward spiral and sounds like something of a rebirth for the band. Despite
recording again with John Goodmanson and still being resolutely morose and poetic, the band plays with far more
energy and spirit here. It’s not on the level of manic passion they displayed in the early stages of their career,
but songs like “Songs About Your Girlfriend” and “The Black Bird, the Dark Slope” careen with a hyperactive energy
that’s impressive for any band, much less one that had been presumed comatose. The fury of the uptempo tracks gives
the slower, more sluggish songs more emotional power by contrast, and the whole album has a vibrant dynamic appeal
that was missing from Romance. A lot of the credit goes to vocalist Gareth, who has reined in the raw edges of his
voice and sings with more command and power. His words, too, are less raw and awkward as he details heartbreak,
sadness, and the frustrations of trying to live a passionate life with a sharper eye and less hysteria. The rest of
the band responds with tightly wound performances that range from the slow burn of “Hate for the Island” to the
tender balladry of “Light Leaves, Dark Sees, Pt. 2” and the up-and-down "Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions),"
where the guitars rage behind Gareth’s vocals with a newfound electric power. This album is an improvement over
Romance in almost every way, and almost is enough to restore the faith of fans set adrift by the band’s sudden
decline. They may never make a record as unhinged and beautiful as Hold on Now, Youngster..., but if they keep
making records as tough and exciting as Hello Sadness, Los Campesinos! will always be worth keeping up with.
1 By Your Hand
2 Songs About Your Girlfriend
3 Hello Sadness
4 Life is a Long Time
5 Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)
6 Hate For the Island
7 The Black Bird, the Dark Slope
8 To Tundra
9 Baby I Got the Death Rattle
10 Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II