Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Circa Waves – Sad Happy

Cohesively bringing together two of the most juxtaposing emotions is a hard balance for any band to strike, but Circa Waves‘ burning ambition to musically represent two extremities of modern society sees them pour their sad and happy state of minds into their latest full-length, Sad Happy. 

A mere year on from their third studio album What’s It Like Over There, the Liverpudlian indie rockers have gone on to significantly strengthen their sound. From the sophisticated, nuanced pop of the aforementioned 2019 effort to the lively indie-pop of the 2020 LP, Sad Happy sees Circa Waves take an experimental detour before travelling back to their indie roots.

The double concept album starts on a high with the Happy first half, released in January, coming into play. Jacqueline opens and is a true party popping anthem through and through. Filled with festival ready singalong choruses and catchy hooks, Jacqueline is the outgoing number of the happy party.

Its second single, Move To San Francisco, sees the band departing from their hometown of northern Liverpool to start afresh in sunny San Fran. “I think that we should move to San Francisco/ That’s where the happy people go” sings frontman Kieran Shudall who is hazily, and moreover happily, day dreaming of the warm weather of the West Coast, evidently continuing on the cheery concept of Happy.

Further down the Happy side, The Things We Knew Last Night and Call Your Name prove to be two sonically contrasting songs that happen to share one similar theme. The Things We Knew Last Night starts off with a gentle swell of acoustic guitars, that gradually grow as the contemplative mood increases. Picking up the pace, Call Your Name presents itself from the offset as one of the standout tunes on the album’s tracklist. Racing electric guitars, booming drums and Shudall’s irresistible hooks are pumped up with energy, not too long before the bridge comes in and unapologetically stamps its unwavering foot on proceedings, temporarily adding some deceleration to the otherwise high octane number.

Continuing on, the positivity comes plummeting down as the Sad section gets rid of any previously felt contentment. Singles from this side include title track Sad Happy, a sombre and downbeat, indie-meets-synth-pop song and Battered & Bruised, which plays host to some pleasurable pianos and glimmers of distorted guitars alongside some seriously melancholic songwriting.

Coming to the near conclusion of Sad Happy and before Circa Waves’ fourth effort finishes on closing track Birthday CakeWake Up Call and Hope There’s A Heaven lyrically offer themselves up as the saddest selection of songs from this section. The first, Wake Up Call, on the surface of its sound showcases potential to be on the opposite side of the album, as cheerful instrumentals lead the way initially, however it’s the cynical lyrics that sing “Oh, this is your wake up call, that I need / I’ve been lying to myself for weeks” that says it all. Similarly, Hope There’s A Heaven’s personality is split into two, with one part tapping into negative uncertainty through repeated use of maybe’s and the other desperately holding out all hope for something more positive to come along in life.

Circa Waves Sad Happy does exactly what it says on the tin. Promising to portray two sides, a saturated and segregated society juxtaposed by the hope and happiness we all collectively crave in such tense times, it’s guaranteed that Sad Happy’s message will resonate with the many individuals that listen.

7.5/10

Standout Tracks: Jacqueline, Call Your Name, Sad Happy, Wake Up Call, Hope There’s A Heaven

For Fans Of: Blossoms, Sundara Karma, The Amazons

Written by: Katie Conway-Flood

Katie Conway-Flood
Katie Conway-Flood is a music journalist, music publicist and general band enthusiast. For several years, since graduating university with a first class degree in music business, Katie has written single, album and live reviews, and regularly contributed to news stories and feature pieces for a plethora of online music publications. Katie is otherwise a pop-punk, pop-rock listener and ethical vegan.