2 Los Campesinos! - No Blues
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The only way was up. Having put Hello Sadness' protracted breakup pains behind him - and how pointedly against that period the notably capitalised NO BLUES title seems - Gareth and the rest haven't yet put death and exes behind him/them, and with his hyperliterate self-examination existentialism it's increasingly a band in his image whatever's going on behind him, but this seems a trimmer album in more ways than a renumbering of personnel. The dynamic shifts have moved slightly sideways, prominent keyboards returning, wild riffs toned down in favour of charges and textures. The melodies are simultaneously more confident and less easy to grasp hold of, the choruses stand out more but are less willing to grab and throw the listener into the centre of the chanting circle (despite an actual cheerleading troupe's employment on Avocado, Baby) Similarly Gareth still yelps and pleads his words but having come through what might be the worst his surface confidence is restored for the first time since he was a post-grad ATP kid. The revenge fantasy imagery and football references aren't there for the sake of it but to link and express greater truths and feelings, still with tongue comfortably in cheek. If every LC! album is a new diary year this is the mid-20s post-breakdown point at which it's realised there's still plenty of time to grab hold of your destiny despite yourself. Moreover, this is the first time they've properly sustained a grower, new references, emotional shifts and ornate musical patterns and hooks emerging all the time, being about developing momentum rather than exuberance. Many still want them to be the band they were in 2008 but this is if not cutting off their earlier selves then putting in a dotted line that differentiates what now seem two clear eras. They're now wry dramatists who consider the many deaths while sounding like being alive.