Album Review: Sad Happy // Circa Waves

Sad Happy is the fourth studio album by indie-rock band, Circa Waves, released 13 March 2020.

The Liverpool based four-piece released the album in two halves; Happy was released at the beginning of the year, with Sad added to the mix this month. In an NME interview at the end of last year, frontman Kieran Shudall said that the record was doing two things: lifting people out of the everyday with positivity, and uncovering some of the difficulties of growing up and being a man in his early thirties.

Despite the title, the album isn’t as clearly split as one might assume, and each track offers a reflective journey of its own.

‘Jacqueline’ is the first track on the album and was released as a single in November 2019. Starting on a high, the track boasts a catchy, feel-good vibe with joyful harmonies and motivational chants scattered throughout. The second song, ‘Be Your Drug’, features a heavier rock vibe, with pounding drums and a moody rhythm. ‘San Francisco’ is cheery and upbeat, with a chorus that will be stuck in your head for the foreseeable. The mellow and summery vibe that made us first fall in love with Circa Waves returns, making it infectiously likeable.

‘Wasted on You’ is familiarly bright and cheerful, before stripping it back with ‘The Things We Knew Last Night’. This acoustic track is calm, emotional, taking a breather from the liveliness and offering a raw, personal, story-telling experience. The lyrics are melancholy, laying bare the stark realities of youth slipping away. Straight after, ‘Call Your Name’ bursts onto the scene – a welcome jolt back into the cool, upbeat side of Circa Waves. This track is lighthearted and fun, reminiscent of numbers from debut Young Chasers, and a welcome interlude before moving back into the reflective, dramatic ‘Love You More’.

The namesake of the album comes next, a bold and bittersweet track paving the way for the second half of the album. The easy-going ‘Wake Up Call’ follows, before ‘Sympathy’. This pure ballad does not need dressing up, and the heartfelt lyrics are accompanied by acoustic guitar. ‘Battered and Bruised’ proceeds with an upbeat vibe and breezy whistling throughout to feel fresh and high-spirited. This back-and-forth of moods filters through to ‘Train to Lime Street’, an atmospheric and calming non-vocal break which leads smoothly on to the last song of the album, ‘Birthday Cake’. The grand finale feels like the inverse of opener ‘Jacqueline’, a vulnerable and sobering outro to show off the full range of Circa Waves’ maturing portfolio.

Whether it is one of their designated ‘Sad’ or ‘Happy’ songs, Sad Happy has something for everyone no matter what kind of mood you are in. Circa Waves have tried something new whilst all the while keeping hold of that bright likeability that made them successful in the first place — and deservedly so.

Their new take on a ‘split’ album is refreshingly different and leaves no room for predictability or sameness. It is fair to say that Circa Waves’ experimental, two-sided gamble certainly paid off in this delightful double album.

Words by Sarah Turner
@hifromsarah

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