Over the course of the last seven years, the British act Los Campesinos! has established itself as one of the most consistent indie-pop bands around. The band made a name for itself with a brightly upbeat debut you could dance to, full of direct and emotional songs. Since then, they have matured their sound into more melancholy indie-pop that still contains expertly written, heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics that have the same impact. On their fifth album, No Blues, they still highlight the same insecurities about life, love and relationships that they always do, continuing their streak of releasing consistently great records.
One would think the band’s formula would get stale after a while, but its members are still crafting some of the best and most affecting tracks of their careers. Rather than alter their style, each record improves upon the last with steady growth and subtle variations. No Blues adds to that as one of the most nuanced and understated records Los Campesinos! has made. Singer Gareth David still shows off his gift for wordplay on moody and melodic tracks such as “Glue Me.” He also reminds listeners that he is one of the most passionate singers around, belting out lines such as, “There is no blues that can sound quite as heartfelt as mine,” with the sort of conviction that makes listeners believe it. He still brings his distinctly British sense of self-deprecating humor to most tracks, but plays it off with a bit more sincerity than usual.
The whole of the album is fairly bleak, with tracks such as “As Lucerne/The Low” and “Avocado, Baby” standing out as some of the more depressing songs the band has written. Los Campesinos! still deliver the occasional fast-paced cut such as the electrifying single “What Death Leaves Behind,” but more often than not, they tend to show off a more subdued approach that takes on a grander scale, like in the thrilling closer “Selling Rope (Swan Dive To Estuary).” The softer tracks, such as “A Portrait of the Trequartista As A Young Man,” are interesting with added layers of instrumentation, but don’t quite stick in your memory as well as the band’s songs usually do.
Los Campesinos’! tracks are usually very sad, but there is a level of despair present throughout No Blues that is deeper, coming from a perspective of greater wisdom than their older material. Much of that is accented by the contrast of distant horns layered on top of David’s bleak melodies, reminiscent of the way Beirut and Sufjan Stevens use horns to tug at listeners’ heartstrings. As a whole, No Blues shows how Los Campesinos! know how to keep putting out consistently great albums. They are steadily becoming one of the most underrated bands of the generation.