You must know by now that we here at SportsAlcohol.com love a good list. And while some of our recent comprehensive career-spanning list projects have addressed legends or beloved modern masters, we also have plenty of indie rock cult favorites who we love and obsess over just as much. So when Los Campesinos! emerged from their longest band hiatus ever to put out their new record Sick Scenes and do a proper U.S. tour, the first thing we knew… well, OK, the first thing we knew was that Rob, Jesse, and Marisa were going to listen to Sick Scenes at least a thousand times collectively over the next year, and the second thing we knew was that we were going to get in the ol’ soft mosh pit for their New York City tourdate. But the third thing we knew was that we were going to enlist some fellow fans of this seven-piece English indie-punk-tweemocore band and put together a list of their best tunes. Because they have so many, and because we perpetually wish more people would pay attention to them. Then again, I won’t deny that it sometimes feels good to flat-out worship some obscure-by-top-40-standards indie rock outfit and glory in their continuing existence. As one of the write-ups mentions below: People who don’t dislike or ignore this band tend to love the ever-loving fuck out of this band. This, I think, is how indie rock stays alive – not by selling out Radio City Music Hall.
Though they’ve only been around for about a decade, Los Campesinos! have released six studio albums as well as at least an album’s worth of B-sides, rarities, EP tracks, and Christmas songs. And honestly, even if they weren’t closing in on 100 to choose from, many of their songs have such an explosion of wordflow, energy, vocal byplay, and shout-along hooks that a mere 10 or 15 would seem too few. So we decided to make this list a muscular 20 songs long. Happily, the results reflect our LC! fandom at their every stage, from the youthful brio of 2008’s Hold On Now, Youngster… to the dire break-up stories of Hello Sadness to their more reflective, but still exuberant, 2017 incarnation. So get to reading and get to listening and maybe get to weeping angrily, if that’s your thing. We also have a podcast about our experiences with this band in general and at their recent live show in particular, as well as some discussion of other indie rock that popped out back in 2008. But first, our day in lists.
In addition to your old pals Rob, Jesse, and Marisa, the following excellent LC! fans contributed votes and write-ups below:
Evan Dent is a writer living in New Orleans who, regrettably, wore his “Romance is Boring” t-shirt the day after he broke up with his 11th grade girlfriend. You can follow him on twitter @evancdent.
Craig Iturbe, as ever, has a PhD in twee (also English lit).
Jon Kern is a playwright and TV writer (who also occasionally appears on the SportsAlcohol.com podcast).
Vikram Murthi writes TV and film criticism for the A.V. Club, Vulture, and elsewhere.
Evan Rytlewski is the music editor of Milwaukee’s alt-weekly Shepherd Express and his work has also appeared on Pitchfork and The A.V. Club, among others.
The 20 Best Los Campesinos! Songs of All Time (For Now)
20. “Ways to Make It Through the Wall”
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, 2008
I am that friend. I’m the one you’re not sure why you’re still friends with. That one with the weight of the world on their shoulders for no good reason. I’m maybe two years older than you, yet I think that gives me the wisdom of Gandalf. I’m the one you don’t see as often because you live in an age where misanthropy can be disguised as introvertism. so I can bail whenever without guilt. “I chose hopelessness / And inflicted it on the rest of us”. Though I think I’m hilarious, I am no good at parties. “Ways to Make It Through the Wall” is about me. I see the future. Thought I try to deny it, it is exactly like my parents’ past. Gareth Campesinos! underrated talent for internal rhyming lays the situation out in the chorus. We’re passively waiting for a future we don’t want. Everything I say is a total bummer, but you know I’m right. – Rob
19. “Knee Deep at ATP”
Hold On Now, Youngster…, 2008
Gareth David doesn’t have the highest opinion of Los Campesinos!’s debut album Hold on Now, Youngster…. He admits to playing up the “twee pop” angle that the media bestowed upon them a little too much, describes the lyrics as “a bit saccharine and willfully pretentious,” and calls his voice on the album “abysmal,” claiming he sang “as a version of [himself]” rather than himself. These comments are more than understandable given that the record is a bit of a relic, not just of a radically different indie music scene, complete with corresponding cultural references, but also of more adolescent feelings. The entire album more or less chronicles unrequited love stories and broken relationships from the mind of a recent college graduate. I can see why Gareth looks back on it and winces.
Nevertheless, I can’t abide by that point of view. Almost ten years old, Hold on Now, Youngster… is still a phenomenal collection of songs, a high-energy line-in-the-sand statement from the group about its own collective outlook on culture, love, and everything in between. Take one of the album’s best tracks “Knee Deep at ATP,” itself a reference to a now-shuttered organization and music festival, which essentially follows a standard emo premise—a guy learns that his new fling has a cool current lover she failed to disclose—and abstracts it to snapshots of a very specific moment. It exists in the exact second the narrator learns that this secret lover not only like K Records and can actually write, but still resides in his fling’s heart, evoked perfectly by the line “So maybe the lining of a winter’s coat mightn’t be the best place to hide a summer secret.” The instrumentation parallels the emotion as well: The song pulses brightly, dips into string-based ballad territory, and then finally speeds up again as the narrator’s regret and rage peak. “They say, ‘It’s not what you like, it’s what you’re like as a person’ / Well, I need new hobbies, that’s one thing for certain” is one of the great self-deprecating closing lines of a 00s song. If this counts as saccharine and pretentious, we could all use a whole lot more of it. – Vikram
18. “…And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in Unison”
Hold On Now, Youngster…, 2008
Some may call this “And We Exhale.” I’d probably default to “Roll Our Eyes” since I think that’s the more central gesture. But all focus would best be given to that opening ellipsis. How many song titles begin with a fucking ellipsis? (Seriously, figure it out on your own. I’m not checking.) Here, those dots invite us to add our own lives to the choral end as we find communion in perhaps the emotion humans are best equipped to share: disdain. I can’t imagine I will ever reach an age where I won’t get instantly swept up to shout-sing “And woe is me/And woe is you/And woe is us, together.” And I equally doubt in my imagination’s ability to reveal a time of life where doing so will stop making me feel less alone. This is Existence as yogis and shamans promise, as it feels when In Love and High as Fuck on Mushrooms. Who needs a lifetime of spiritual practice and discipline when any phone can access a Los Campensinos! song that’s 2:48 in length and is more likely to work? C’mon, Universe, we got shit to do! – Jon
17. “Hello Sadness”
Hello Sadness, 2011
The album Hello Sadness doesn’t get ask much love as some of the others. It didn’t have a huge showing on this list, and even the band ranks it last. It would be a shame to overlook it, though, because you can really feel Los Campesinos! hitting a groove with this record—not as messy and shambolic as its earlier ones, but still stuffed too full of good ideas—and the title track totally bears this out. Like the rest of the album, it’s about a breakup, but it’s not a slog; it starts out as a trot, and builds to a kind of fist-pumping conclusion. It’s more satisfying than any breakup I’ve been through, that’s for sure. – Marisa
16. “The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future”
Romance is Boring, 2010
Romance is Boring starts with the line, “let’s talk about you for a minute,” and “The Sea is a Good Place to Think About the Future” is one of the Los Campesinos! songs that really does that, sketching out a lover’s crisis through impeccable detailing. It’s the anthem that only Los Campesinos! could produce, pairing terrifically gloomy and dense lyrics with swooning violins and a gigantic, speaker blow-out chorus. In the verses, we’re given a deep look at another person’s life, from the meaningful to the seemingly banal – her eating disorder, her video games prowess, her self-medication after the death of her mother, her dislike of Torys, her wish to drown or find herself anew on another seashore. The sea is the canonical place for epiphanies – cf. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, among others – and in this song, it’s where one can think of (or think about) the future, seemingly “at the edge of the world,” but also surrounded by mini-golf courses, another brilliant lyrical marriage of the high and the low. It’s the touches of realism throughout that keep the song grounded, that save it from melodrama, that make it, above all else, an effective story well told. – Evan D
15. “Avocado, Baby”
No Blues, 2013
“Avocado, Baby” is an odd one to put on a list of the band’s best songs, because, in most respects, it sounds so different from the rest of the Los Campesinos! catalog. In a way, it’s like saying, “What I like most about this band is when it sounds like a totally different band.” It’s got more of a disco vibe, for chrissakes. And there are cheerleaders?! But once you really listen to the shouty part—“A heart of stone, rind so tough it’s crazy/That’s why they call me the avocado, baby”—it’s clear you’re safe in Los Campesinos! terrain. The lyrics are just as moody as anything else you can expect on an album about the blues, just dressed up in a more uptempo guise, It’s the song you throw on when you want to listen to Los Campesinos!, but you have to walk somewhere while you’re doing it and don’t want to lag behind. (Note: I have done this. It works.) Also, if you only ever watch one Los Campesinos! video, make it this one. It’s a continuous-shot wonder directed by Craig Roberts, aka the kid from Submarine. – Marisa
14. “Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats”
Hold On Now, Youngster…, 2008
If you didn’t know what kind of band Los Campesinos! was in the early years, all you have to do is listen to the count-off at the beginning of this song. It’s too fast. It’s too high. There’s too much energy. There’s too many people doing it, and they’re all shouting. And it’s wonderful.
This is definitely a song from a young band (Spider-Man references and all), but it still has lines like, “Kiss him in the face with no lips and no tongue, but with your little, middle, index, and ring fingers.” That’s kinda cute, but for all the accusations of the band being twee at this time, it’s an incredibly mean-spirited sentiment. And I’m not hugely well versed in the twee scene, but from my limited experience rarely does it come at you as fast and as intense as “Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats.” The song feels like an outlet for a band that has so many pent-up emotions, they can’t stop themselves from releasing it all, and all at once, one the second track of their first-ever album—and so urgently that it comes out with a stutter like ba-ba-ba-la-ba-ba-ba-da-ba, ba-ba-ba-la-ba-ba-ba-da-ba, honey. – Marisa
13. “We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)”
Romance is Boring, 2010
Though many Los Campesinos! songs focus on a male narrator’s lust for an object of affection, only a very uncharitable reading would conclude that they’re indulgent or inequitable because of it. Putting aside the fact that women have been a part of the band since its beginning (Aleksandra, Ellen, and Harriet were previous members, contributing vocals and other instruments; Kim has been the keyboardist and secondary vocalist since 2009), primary songwriter Gareth often specifically writes about male solipsism and its negative influences on young relationships. It’s less whining than venting, more rueful contemplation than raging against perceived enemies. Gareth’s lyrics can be bitter and petty, but they’re always buttressed by enough self-awareness to keep it from ever becoming truly toxic.
“We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)” off of Los Camp!’s third album Romance Is Boring, arguably the best work of their career, pointedly explores male narcissism through two characters talking past each other. The song opens with Aleksandra documenting two melancholic anecdotes from her childhood before, but in the climax of the song, her male lover, voiced by Gareth, admits that he’s more interested in her body than her stories (“It’s all in the words, but I’m here for the pictures). But here’s the kicker: Aleksandra simultaneously responds that he doesn’t know how to satisfy her body at all; “I’m sweating off the cheat notes on my thighs / They were for your benefit, not mine” is maybe the slyest way to tell someone they’re terrible at giving head. As the music swells, Gareth and Alexsandra’s voices meld together until they become a mishmash of miscommunication. In both form and content, it suggests that empathy is the only actual solution to chronic selfishness.
But as much as I love the story in “We’ve Got Your Back,” it’s a song that lives and dies by its triumphant chorus that suggests something powerful about the band’s relationship with its diehard fanbase. Not a lot of people like or know Los Campesinos!, but those who do love them, and a band of this size making this kind of music survives with that kind of passion and commitment. The band has lived through the death of the late-00s indie boom industry that birthed them and come out the other side with six studio albums, three EPs, and a live album over the course of a decade. It’s an unbridled victory and it’s because they’ve had the backs of many. It may not be worth much, but it’s always going to be true. So fucking on and so fucking forth indeed. – Vikram
12. “What Death Leaves Behind”
No Blues, 2013
What percentage of Los Campesinos! songs include some variation of the punchline “…and to top it off, my soccer team lost”? I’m really asking. Because I’m an American, not only do I not understand Gareth’s soccer references, I usually can’t even tell when he is making a soccer reference (over here, the word football refers to, well, football). In “What Death Leaves Behind,” Gareth slides in a soccer pun so deep that three Google searches couldn’t help me make sense of it. Otherwise, the song is strategically packed with all of his usual tropes: Will Shortz-caliber vocabulary words, esoteric words, defeatist jokes, esoteric worries (all those sleepless nights, terrified of being impaled by a mattress spring) and suffering. So much suffering. Maybe he’s overcompensating with all the Los Campesinos!-iness, because while he preaches to his choir—his jaded, broken-hearted, soccer-loving choir—the song itself sets out to win over everybody. It’s all uplift, their glossiest, tightest, chummiest, most euphoric track since they cut back on the glockenspiel, and probably the most likable single they’ve ever attempted. It wasn’t a hit, but fuck it, it sure sounds like one, from that supersonic chorus right down to its redemptive coda: “We will flower again, I have surely seen it / WE WILL FLOWER AGAIN.” He isn’t singing. He’s testifying. – Evan R
11. “These Are Listed Buildings”
Romance is Boring, 2010
A lot of songs on this list probably could or will be described as Peak Campesinos!, but let me make a case for this one, the second track off of Romance is Boring, as one of the times when their engine was revving the hardest. The band’s seemingly wild but actually well-calibrated swings from the sweetly pop to the clamorously sour get an especially distinctive workout here, as oohs, aaahs, and choruses of “BA BA!”s repeatedly swell on the heels of guitar freakouts and wry notes about how the narrator remembers “being naked to my waist, though not in which direction.” That line speaks to a sticky, vaguely debauched fuzziness of memory, and part of what makes “Buildings” work so well is the way it keeps popping out into clarity from the haze of recollection. Also: copious oohs and aahs, which, as we all know, often precede the running and the screaming. – Jesse
10. “I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know”
Romance is Boring, 2010
[Ed. note: This song is in the top ten because two different guys named Evan, who do not know each other, both gave it their #1 votes on their respective lists. We thought it was only fair that they both get their say.]
There’s no equal-time doctrine in pop music. Every love song is a one-way conversation, a lopsided exchange between songwriter and silent recipient. “I Just Sighed” takes that notion to such extremes that it becomes something else completely: a filibuster. Always the over-sharer, Gareth floods the song with insignificant details—he puts a time and date stamp on the damn thing—as he details unrequited love in the wordiest terms possible, despite every indication from the indifferent cosmos that he should just move on already. It’s hard to listen to the universe when you don’t like what it’s telling you.
Like much of Romance is Boring, “Sighed” functions as multiple songs in one, depending on which words stick on any given listen and which ones slip past (it’s all too frenzied and verbose too process all at once). It’s both love song and tantrum, a declaration of complete devotion but also the last stand of a romantic willing to die on the hill for companionship he’ll never know. No matter which way you read it, it’s devastating, and never more so than in its final gust, when Gareth summons every ounce of the band’s might for a rhapsodic, communal chorus: “PLEASE JUST LET ME BE THE ONE TO KEEP TRACK / OF THE FRECKLES AND THE MOLES ON YOUR BACK.” In just about any other context that sentiment would be one of the sweetest displays of concern ever put to music. Here it’s a futile plea of a man already denied. – Evan R.
Who hasn’t felt the sting of seeing the person you love with someone else – someone who just doesn’t measure up to your devotion? Unrequited love may be one of the most – if not the most – reliable wells for songwriters, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song that canvasses the details of that sting with such alacrity as “I Just Sighed.” Musically, the whole thing is a glorious mess, transitioning from a battering wall of sound into a lyrically dense, somewhat uneasy sounding song with a barely-there chorus and at least two bridges. Gareth’s lyrics have always been highly specific, and maybe never more so than in this song, but somehow, their specificity makes them all the more relatable. As someone who studied literature, something about the lines “He gave a gift of the Faber Book of Love Poems / Annotated the ones he thought applied the most / Not gonna win you round with prose / if anyone should know, then it’s I should know” hits in such a weird, specific place, reminding me of many of my own futile romantic gestures.
True to the maximalist scope of Romance is Boring, seemingly every single aspect of unrequited love is covered in the lyrics. “Sometimes it’s just enough to know I keep him on his toes / Is he as sympathetic as me to the untimely demise of your synthetic clothes?” perfectly sums up the granular competition of a scorned lover. There’s also the faux-grandeur of loving from afar: displaying “marriage proposals on the Jumbotron of ballgames you’ve not been at,” an empty gesture of love that’s divorced from the reality of an actual relationship. At one point, Gareth compares the agony of waiting for a text back to “six months of visceral Catherine Wheels,” a distinctly Los Campesinos! reference to a medieval torture device. And, of course, the coup-de-grace lines of benighted resignation, at once defeated and cathartic: “I’m so sorry to have put you through / a lifetime of dedications that you never desired.”
Between the arrangement and the machine-gun lyrics, I’m not sure how any of this song works, but we’re talking about a band that peppers its songs with obscure football references, body horror, and glockenspiel; so in that respect, “I Just Sighed” is the most Los Campesinos! song out there. – Evan D
9. “5 Flucloxacilin”
Sick Scenes, 2017
First, a word of appreciation for Sick Scenes in general: As the newest Los Campesinos! album, it obviously came into this listmaking process at a disadvantage. But this fantastic record did its best to overcome. First, seven of the song’s eleven songs received votes overall, which is a better percentage than many of their other records, and “The Fall of Home” in particular received more votes than any other song that didn’t make the list (and more than several that did; if we put more weight on mentions than rankings, it would have been a top ten candidate). Repping the softer, less aggressive approach of “Fall of Home” is “5 Flucloxacilin,” which managed the impressive feat of cracking the LC! top ten despite being all of a few weeks old. Listening to it, it’s easy to understand why; this may not be one of the most rocking LC! songs, but it is one of their most immediate, as Gareth sings more plaintively (and beautifully) about a roll call of prescription drugs employed to manage depression as one trudges into his or her thirties. I’ve never suffered from clinical depression, so to some extent I depend on stuff like movies and music and books to explain what it’s like, and “5 Flucloxacilin” has an open-hearted weariness that grabbed me immediately. It helps that it sports an all-timer of a LC! sing-along chorus, lamenting “they say if they had got the victory/they’d act with so much more humility,” followed by a cry of “I guess we’ll never know!” You can sing about it and you can sing along, but it’s not always the same as knowing, is it? – Jesse
8. “Romance is Boring”
Romance is Boring, 2010
This song hits so hard with its chorus that it took me a little while to even really hear the rest of it. Since then it’s been a slow unfolding. One day I’ll be walking on the street somewhere and suddenly be struck by the visceral metaphor of “ventricle cauterized” as a way of expressing emotional numbness. Another I’ll be listening on the subway and hear, as if for the first time, that the narrator’s totally unnecessary errand in the mountains in putting his dogs’ lives at risk. Hell, I even learned a bunch about trawl fishing so I could fully unpack the bridge (short version: It’s not great, and it basically means just scooping up all the fish indiscriminately, which also means that a trawler returning nets empty is a pretty spectacular failure). Really, the bridge is a little microcosm of the song, since it starts out with something kinda lazy and cliched about how “we are too ships that pass in the night” and then really leans into the metaphor until it becomes interesting. What kind of ships? What are those ships doing out there? What are the results? A song about two people who don’t like each other but keep dating anyway (again, ugh, so boring, so lazy) shouldn’t keep offering up fresh insights on every listen, but here we are. – Craig
7. “Straight in at 101”
Romance is Boring, 2010
This is a very clever song. Not everyone likes overly clever songs, but I’m a sucker for them. Most of my favorite things about this song are things I feel like I have to explain so you really get them, you know? Like how “she keep on pulling the peace sign (and it seems like a taunt)” is great because in the UK they use a backwards peace sign instead of the middle finger. Or how “I condescend a smile and wink directly at the camera” is a really neat way to indicate someone being so completely consumed by self-consciousness that he imagines an audience watching him as he slinks out of someone’s house in the early morning. Or how the song is called “Straight in at 101” because his heart-wrenching breakup missed being included in the top 100 of all time by just one. But really, it’s all just after-the-fact justification, and I’m 100% on board right from “I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock.” – Craig
6. “By Your Hand”
Hello Sadness, 2011
What would you guess is the percent of LC! songs about sex & death? 114%? 115%? “By Your Hand” is another one of those. It also features maybe the band’s grossest lyric: “Thighs of stallion”? Ick. So how does it manage to be so thoroughly charming, the jewel of what (for me) is their weakest album? It is (for me) the total sincerity in the orchestration: from the emotional support of the handclaps on the chorus to the musical pause and spoken-delivery on “Remember what your heart is for.” It makes for a song that honors the painful rush of longing and how these facts of the body bind us to our humanity. It’s a high-school anthem made by the grad-school set. Anyone with her/his head in a book can understand what it’s like to dream of dreams and yearn for a body in motion whether that motion be fucking or fist fights. – Jon
5. “A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; Or, Letters from Me to Charlotte”
Romance is Boring, 2010
Before I get into the actual song, let me gripe a bit about its title. I remember reading that Los Campesinos! got really into state nicknames during one of their U.S. tours. I guess nobody told them Americans don’t actually know the state nicknames other than their own and those on the license plates of the drivers they’re cursing out. (Pop quiz: Which state is the Show Me State: Montana, Minnesota, or Mississippi? Trick question: It’s Missouri.) And Americans really don’t know what the outlines of other states look like, especially divorced from the rest of the map of the USA. So, chances are, any one of us could have a heat rash/bruise/birthmark/whatever in the perfect shape of the Show Me State, and we’d never know it.
It’s okay, though, because the heat rash is a fantasy, just like the intimacy in this song is a fantasy. The “he” of this song may know the map of all the marks on “her” skin, but she’s not his. In our podcast about Los Campesinos!, LC! newbie Sara says her first impression of the band is that they embody the idea of a “nice guy” (though not necessarily the worst that could imply). This song gets right to the heart of being in the “friend zone”: “The frequent public displays of sisterly affection left her feeling safe, left him with an erection.”
I know, I know: Nothing sounds worse than a song complaining about being in the friend zone—but LC! is too clever to just leave it at that. The speaker of the song isn’t the “he.” He’s a different “he.” He hates the “he” he’s describing and imagines Charlotte holding a gun to “his” head—if, in fact, there is only one other “he” in the song. It’s possible there are more. The ambiguity is what keeps it from being your typical sad-bastard lament. The speaker of this song only reveals his true feelings once, to Charlotte, in one simple moment: “They’ve appropriated everything we’ve ever loved, and dressed it up in quotations and fluff.” God, what a line! Genius thinks the appropriating “they” is the couple described in the beginning of the song. I think it really refers to the wider world at large. It’s possible it can scale to cover both, going from specific to universal in one angry thought. And all of this comes wrapped in typical Los Campesinos! packaging, with horns, boy/girl vocals, and a part that you can shout-along to, right at the time when you can tell that they finally decided what kind of band they’re going to be. Yeah, it’s a little mopey, signaling a step away from the rowdy, glockenspiel-rock (which I still love) and towards the more mature band they are today. I love the earlier, cuter songs, too, but Romance Is Boring is a step forward, and “Letters from Me to Charlotte” signals that essential truth: “Things will never be the same.” – Marisa
4. “You! Me! Dancing!”
Hold On Now, Youngster…, 2008
As we mention on our upcoming podcast, this can feel like a very basic Los Campesinos! song to love. It’s from the first and cutest of their wide and varied discography. It’s a guaranteed live-experience party-starter. It was the one that was in a Budweiser ad, for fuck’s sake. But here’s one thing among many to love about “You! Me! Dancing!”: It kicks in three times. The longest LC! song has a slow, low, burbling intro as it builds and revs up. Then its central guitar riff emerges, clear and confident. Then it kicks in with the addition of a steady drumbeat. And then the rest of the band (including the fabled glockenspiel) blasts through, and we’re off. That’s three extremely satisfying moments before the lyrics come in. Speaking of which, what could be more indie-rock than a paean to the ecstasy of dancing via a song that paradoxically admits “if there’s one thing that I could never confess, it’s that I can’t dance a single step.” And then? The song kicks in again for the chorus: “It’s you! It’s me! And there’s dancing!” Which is also, by the way, a perfect description of every Los Campesinos! show I’ve ever been to, where this song is always an inescapable, frenzied highlight. None of us can dance and all of us can. – Jesse
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, 2008
On the live album A Good Night for a Fistfight, Gareth describes Miserabilia as such:
“This is not like the old days.
All the pets you had when this band formed are now dead.
We’re all uglier and a couple of us substantially fatter than we were back then.
All the football teams that you supported seven years ago haven’t won the trophy in that a long a time.
And what’s worse is each and every one of you in gonna die alone.
And this song is about that.”
It traffics in all of the familiar Los Campesinos! themes: puking, soccer, and how we’re all the worst. I guess that’s true, but taking any LC! song at face value is to sell it short. Miserabilia set itself apart early by faking us out with a guitar solo when you expect the first chorus that reminds us of their 90’s indie rock influxes of Pavement and Built To Spill. It’s also incredibly forwarding thinking in focusing on looking back. A running theme for my writing at sportsalcohol.com is that I’m very nostalgic for my younger days. What Miserabilia presupposes is: yeah, but that’s a bad thing. I can’t disagree that or with the ending couplet:
“Shout at the world, because the world doesn’t love you
Lower yourself, because you know that you’ll have to”
Maybe that’s why the new album is so good: Gareth was old before he was old. – Rob
2. “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed”
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, 2008
If you were abducted by aliens with a perverse sexual desire to make people sum up a band in one song title from that bands released output (call them The PforkFeatures-ians), no Los Campesinos! song title would better help you get their alien rocks off faster than “We are Beautiful, We are Doomed.” When I was in my twenties, I use to hold this title like a weapon, a secret shiv I’d use to stab all my anxious thoughts of My Failed Life so they’d bleed out and die, making room for new, identical thoughts – thus continuing the endless cycle of Young Man Angst. I can shamefully say I very much considered the lyric “I taught myself the only way to vaguely get along in love/Is to like the other slightly less than you get in return” as relationship advice. I still ask myself if I use such logic to protect my dumb ego to this day. To have a song that can sustain you through your youthful neuroses and to have that song rock out in a pure, sweat-flinging rock out way is a rare gift. I can now look back and know that no matter how much I had the garbage twenties of a garbage person, I was tremendously fortunate to live at a moment where this song could be my anthem. All must hail the line “Oh, we kid ourselves there’s future in the fucking/but there is no fucking future.” My only real regret, Children, is that I didn’t fuck more. – Jon
1. “My Year in Lists”
Hold On Now, Youngster…., 2008
Why is this song #1 and not “You! Me! Dancing!”? It could just be that enough of us didn’t want the Budweiser song to win, but that seems unlikely; we did vote “Smells Like Teen Spirit” the best song of the ‘90s, after all. No, I think this is number one because it’s probably the most Los Campesinos! of Los Campesinos! songs. To the extent that the band has a distinctive sound, it’s crystalized here, and it hit a lot of us early in the band’s run.
For me, the heart of the original LC! sound is always going to be “male vocals singing, female vocals yelling the same lyrics,” which is what this song opens with. It does that formula one better with the addition of “other female vocals sing melodically.” There’s something tremendously compelling about different voices singing the same words at the same time but in different styles. It really emphasizes one of the most important things about this band – it has so many members! “My Year in Lists,” more than any other LC! song, foregrounds the joyous feeling of being with a big crowd of fun people. When I was heading to my first LC! concert, I said to myself “oh, I bet when they do ‘My Year in Lists’ and they get to the part with the counting in the background everyone in the audience will shout out the numbers along with them and it will be a lot of fun” and that’s exactly what happened. – Craig
In this song, shouting “FIVE! FIVE! FIVE! FIVE! FIVE!” sounds not just enormously appealing, but somehow extremely clever. I think that means something. – Jesse