Los Campesinos! just released their first full length, Hold On Now, Youngster…, throughout the world today to threaten the dominance of Vampire Weekend on top of the indie pop darling charts. While one quickly lost a bit of critical momentum once they hit radio stations in America, the other has yet to truly emerge on their inquisitive radars. Los Campesinos! are a seven piece from Cardiff, Wales playing a mix between the indie pop of The New Pornographers with guy/girl pop punk. It’s as if they’ve discovered that bridge between the two genres, fully exploiting the best of both without swinging said bridge to far to either side. To give a better sense, they did record the new album with David Newfield (Broken Social Scene).
Sticking Fingers Into Sockets – EP (Arts & Crafts, 2007)
The 6-song EP kicks off with We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives declaring right off that “I’ll sing what you like if you shout it straight back at me.” Their singer, Gareth Campesinos!, proceeds to deliver his vocals rather straightforward as Aleks provides her floating vocals above it all. She elicits Jenny Lewis à la The Execution of All Things, both in similar voices but delivery. The music itself can brighten up the day with simplistic keyboard coupled with a glockenspiel (?!) from Gareth. But the witty lyrics can, at times, surpass the instruments in such a good way: “The music was okay, but the fresh air was better and I couldn’t tell if the singer’s keyboard was a crutch or a synthesizer. But it sounded like it had broken a limb, each and every time he pushed the key down on it.” The following song, It Started With A Mixx, is more of a quick interlude in the beginning as a duet between Gareth and Aleks. It’s hearkens back to 70s male/female vocalists bouncing and benefiting from the contributions of the other. Although it only runs 1:20-where normally one would skip-it easily seems to lengthen longer before drifting to a close, leaving the listener for Don’t Tell Me To Do The Math(s). Los Campesinos! indie pop danciness quickly scampers around with brisk drums and clean strumming after Harriet (violin) and Gareth (glockenspiel) start off the song. The violin, thankfully having a recent resurgence in pop music, acts more as a rhythm guitar than anything, adding a unique layer to the band. It does come out a bit more in Frontwards along with Aleks, channeling Jenny Lewis’ spirit across the Atlantic.
But the highlight of the album is You! Me! Dancing!, despite it’s unassuming intro. A staggered, simple guitar begins to build with the help of Harriet’s violin and Ollie’s drums topping out with a prolonged, “what’ll happen next?!” ceiling of sound. It continues for a moment, building with the kick drum just at the end before it gives away to quite possibly one of the top pop rhythms in the past year (I’d say this year, but they rerecorded it for Hold On Now, Youngster…, to which I haven’t heard the album yet). Electric keyboards, the glockenspiel (again!), with backup vocals slightly fuzzed give way to a gentle cloud of a violin as Gareth and Aleks declare, “If there’s one thing I can never confess is that I can’t dance a single step,” quickly followed with “It’s you! It’s me! And it’s dancing!” After this, I confess I was too.
The International Tweexcore Underground – EP (Arts & Crafts, 2007)
On BBC Radio 1 Huw Stephens’ Introducing last week, Los Campesinos! was playing DJ with a number of bands they’re listening to. This and these lyrics definitely show they’ve got their sources down for music. (Side note: Which is another reason why I think they’ll last longer than most indie pop bands, based on what they listen to.) The International Tweexcore Underground presents us with more than just Fugazi/The Evens and The Go! Team references, but another quick dance-pop song. As with previous songs, it drops tempo near the last third of the song taking on the atmosphere of a swaggered denouncement of “…I never cared about whatever” to be lifted up with “the International Tweexcore Underground will save us all!” C Is The Heavenly Option starts off as a simple vocal/drum that could have been recorded in a bedroom studio, drums dampened to the point the snare could be mistaken for an electric drum set. A slight pop punk element, a groggy throat of attitude, emerges in the middle during a brief interlude before backing down and giving way to a The Polyphonic Spree-esque chorus singing nothing but “C.” The last track, a garage punk anthem against law, obviously doesn’t fit in the span of the two EPs. Because it doesn’t fit, it’s a low point of the EP. But it does prove they’re not afraid to stray from that bridge between pop punk and indie pop. If they continue experimenting, we could see them as Britain’s answer to Canada’s indie pop dominance.