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Los Campesinos! -- No Blues
by Arthur Dorrington on November 17, 2013
Los Campesinos! fans, fear not, the hooks are alive and well, and maybe even better than ever on the Welsh indie-pop's fifth studio album, No Blues. I was a big fan of the band's 2011 release, Hello Sadness, a typically twee and supremely catchy bunch of songs for L.C., but an album that seemed a little more subdued than the anthemic Hold On Now Youngster..., the band's 2008 debut, and I was curious to see where L.C would head next, and how their sound might change. After listening to No Blues, it's safe to say the L.C apple doesn't ever fall far from the tree. L.C.'s six-person sound is simultaneously epic and saccharine, and as danceable as ever.
However, No Blues definitely feels like the band's most well produced album. The band seems to have overhauled their attention to detail in the synth department, creating much more interesting and evocative sounds, at least in comparison to the boring Casio bleep-bloop presets that dominated Hello Sadness. There's also a more interesting approach to the vocals, as well as a few more acoustic guitars here and there. In a way, it feels like L.C have taken and combined their sounds from Hold On Now Youngster... and Romance is Boring, and it certainly seems as though this is the sound that L.C. have been searching for since 2008. As well as seeming very comfortable with their sound, L.C. have crafted some of their most mature songs on No Blues. Of course, the subject matter is still the same as ever, No Blues is littered with songs about ex-girlfriends and heartbreak and regret and being unbearably twee and whatever else 500 Days of Summer is about, but the song structures have come a long way since L.C's early days. L.C are not afraid to take a shot at their quieter and less 'four on the floor' sound on tracks like 'No Glue,' and it pays off big, creating one of the most poignant moments on the album. L.C's lyrics have also taken a big step in the right direction.
The albums standout track, and first single, 'Avocado Baby,' has lyrics that make the only really tasteful reference to Greek mythology I've seen in a while (Arcade Fire, I'm looking at you), and has such a catchy, punchy chorus that I can't help but feel a little disappointed that this album did not come out some time this summer, rather than right at the beginning of winter. As with the rest of L.C.'s albums it may be somewhat bitter and maybe even a little cynical, but it certainly sounds a lot sunnier than all that.
The only thing that really concerned me when listening was that, despite all my talk about sounding more developed and more mature, there's something underlying No Blues that felt just too familiar. If I had been asked to imagine what the next L.C. album sounded like before I had listened to this, No Blues is almost exactly what I would have imagined, and I'm not so sure that's a good thing. L.C. seems to have perfected a formula on No Blues, but now it seems like it's time to move on, because one more album of this, and we might as well just be listening to the same songs over and over and over.