Circa Waves’ fans have been in for a delight recently, and have been treated with a two part album collectively known as Sad Happy. The record is broken down into two smaller albums – Happy, which was released in January 2020, and Sad, completing the album on March 13th.
Both parts of this record feature seven sparkling new songs commenting on both of these emotions. Perhaps the clever record has been named Sad Happy to prove to us all that you can’t have one without the other, and people will always find something to be sad about, despite being cheerful. Frontman Kieran Shudall explains this decision, saying “we live in a world split into two extreme halves,” – the happy and the sad.
The initial seven songs cover Happy, and sticking to the theme, all are cheerful indie pop tracks looking at the positives in our lives. The following seven that make up Sad are much more personal to the band. Whilst the music may not necessarily sound downbeat, don’t let this trick you into a false sense of security – the topic areas are a nod to heartbreak, growing up and sadness.
Sad Happy is the first track on the Sad record, and it acts as a bridge between the two halves. Already released as a single, it follows the high standards set in the initial part of the record. Wake Up Call leans more towards the negative side of the album, and whilst the track features a groovy bassline accompanied with stylish synths, Shudalls’ lyrics ‘I’ve been lying to myself for weeks’ speaks of a person living under a false pretenses.’
This can cleverly be mirrored right here in the song, because whilst it sounds shiny and innovating, it’s self-deprecating and negative. Battered and Bruised is very similar in this sense, and despite a punching drum beat and a frequent piano, it explores heartbreak angrily. The acoustic track Sympathy exemplifies this, with a downbeat undecorated accompaniment – it works perfectly, and the synth-heavy Hope there’s Heaven explores the desire in us all for something better.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the whole album is Train to Lime Street – a song that features absolutely no vocals. Instead, the audience is forced to just stop and listen. It’s extremely effective, especially in this fast moving time of social media, just to sit and focus on the noises such as chatter and train tracks. Circa Waves have almost created a song to meditate and relax to, something so important for us all to do. The last track Birthday Cake focuses on ageing, and as lead singer Kieran Shudall said in an interview ‘I think the celebration of growing old is an odd thing’, reflected in the elegant lyrics in the song ‘who cares when we go’. It’s a beautifully crafted, slow song to reflect the bittersweet aspects of life.
Circa Waves deliver a stunning new album full of the contradictions that we deal with through life. They remind us that it’s perfectly normal to be Sad and Happy.