Liverpudlians Circa Waves have been hard at work crafting and refining their sound since the success of their debut Young Chasers in 2015. After showcasing growth on their subsequent albums Different Creatures and What’s It Like Over There?, their inaugural release for the 2020s is a split album, much as fellow indie rockers Foals put together last year. Entitled Sad Happy, the Happy side is fresh off the presses while the Sad side is due in March. The two-fer is meant to “represents two sides of this tech-saturated, highly insecure age”, according to the band, and the cover art for Happy would surely indicate that.
Happy’s lead single “Jacqueline” was released back in November, and upon listening it’s a very logical choice for a teaser: The bass line grooves, hard. The drums are equally hooking, the song overall is uplifting and empowering. “Nobody can dry your eyes, it’s up to you” is the message to take home, undeniably a great bit of advice for a struggling friend.
“Be Your Drug” gets even more active, a rapid account of loving and living frantically while trying not to trip over one’s self in the process. The attention deficit of “Drug” gives way to single #2, “Move to San Francisco”, which while at first a bit chill and somber grows into a peppy tune fully conveying the carefree California vibe. The album’s overall theme is summed up succinctly here: “You say you want to move to San Francisco, that’s where the happy people go.”
“Wasted On You” feeds off of the cruising coastal flavour of “Move” while cycling back to the lyrical themes of “Be Your Drug”, singer Kieran Shudall and his muse are each other’s euphoric fix. It’s a healthy high though: “Now I’m calling out for you/‘cause you cut through the bullshit, you cut through the lies/and you tell the truth.” “The Things We Knew Last Night” sentimentally channels dashes of “Here Comes The Sun” by some other band from Liverpool, moving lyrically from escape and longing to freedom and unwinding without a care in the world.
“Call Your Name” is a drastic change in vibe, almost too much perhaps- shifting again from idle relaxation to a driven, exciting blur forged out of the finest indie elements the 2010s had to offer. Last is “Love You More”, a cut that once again cuts through Circa Waves’ indie influences of The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys and shows glimmering moments of Beatles pop with the orchestral backing to prove it. Declaring to his lover “The only thing I see/in a crowd of bourgeoise/you rip right through the gloom”, Shudall certainly demonstrates a knack for creative pop lyricism with a positive outlook. Let’s just hope that the Sad side is not excessively gloomy in contrast.
Circa Waves is definitely on the right track with this latest effort, exploring all dimensions honestly and not sugarcoating anything. It is a poppy record, a happy record, but not one meant to console and titillate the listener, the sequel piece to Happy will surely prove that. All in all, Sad will, funny to say enough, be a release fully worthy of anticipation.