Song of the Day: Los Campesinos! – What Death Leaves Behind

photo by Kirsten McTernan

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “What Death Leaves Behind” by Los Campesinos! from the 2013 album No Blues on Wichita Recordings.

Los Campesinos! – What Death Leaves Behind (MP3)

Initially pegged as twee revivalists upon their emergence in the mid-00s, Cardiff’s Los Campesinos! quickly revealed themselves to be a group of engagingly dour and witty indie pop enthusiasts whose work ethic is only matched by their self-awareness. Formed at Cardiff University in 2006 and named (enthusiastically) for the Spanish word for “peasant”, the initial lineup of Gareth, Ollie, Rob, Neil, Aleksandra, Harriet, and Ellen Campesinos played their first gig at their student union, and within a year, they’d scored a support slot with Broken Social Scene, released a series of 7″s (including “The International Tweexcore Underground”, an early document of the band’s now-trademark self awareness), and undertaken their first headlining tour. The following year, the band released their debut, Hold On Now, Youngster… and six months later, its followup, the far darker We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, all while touring consistently throughout the year. Since their whirlwind first 18 months, LC!’s membership has shifted (the band is now a sextet with only three founding members remaining), but they’ve grown more confident in their ragged indie pop, with Gareth’s angst-ridden Jarvis Cockerian persona becoming the band’s calling card through meditations on love (2010’s Romance is Boring) and death (2011’s Hello Sadness). Furthermore, they’ve remained prolific in the studio, releasing their fifth full length in five years, last month’s No Blues. Unlike its explicitly melancholy predecessor, No Blues is somewhat more optimistic than the last few LC! releases, which is a result of the band’s decision to resolvedly press on after Ellen’s departure late last year. Easily among their most immediate and anthemic work, “What Death Leaves Behind” belies its morose title to show a band renewed. The band’s prior output was characterized by rough arrangements, but with their DIY spirit is still intact, they sound smoother and more unabashedly “pop” here than ever (which is certainly partially creditable to John Goodmanson’s production). Surrounded by a rousing set of backing vocals and rumbling drums, when Gareth shouts “I have surely seen it/We will flower again” at the end of the song, it’s hard not to see “What Death Leaves Behind”, and No Blues as a whole, as the next, unexpectedly great chapter from one of the last decade’s more consistently engaging and underrated bands.

LC! will make a short run up the East Coast early next year, but beyond that, there aren’t any immediate plans to tour No Blues in America. (Pure speculation: maybe they’ll be coaxed out west by a Coachella/Sasquatch gig.) To hear about any future touring plans, keep up with the band on their Facebook and website, and watch the video for the No Blues highlight “Avocado, Baby” below.

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