HO HO WHO: The Cardiff, Wales–based sextet started its career by taking the maniacally joyful road with complex and confessional lyricism. While complex and confessional is common amongst young songwriters, Los Campesinos! are as much disciples of Pavement as they are of Weezer. The group gave familiar-sounding guitar riffs a shot of adrenaline and backed them with whimsical instruments like xylophone and violin. Still, despite releasing albums with more overtly depressing titles like Hello Sadness, they haven’t given up their commitment to poppy songcraft, and they haven’t removed the telltale exclamation point from the end of their band name. Given the holiday season’s tendency to heighten emotions, it makes sense that this is the band that would record an entire EP of Christmas songs.
BLUE CHRISTMAS?: The song starts off promisingly cheery with a violin-led introduction and singer Gareth Campesinos! reminiscing about the jingle bells and shiny trinkets that light up his city’s streets. The song remains impossibly catchy throughout with an earworm chorus that turns into a joyous round at the song’s conclusion. However, as is often the case with this band, the lyrical content of the song isn’t quite as high-spirited as the composition. A lot of the lines that Gareth sings directly about the object of his affection are in the past tense like, “I held you in both hands and I’m not letting go.” That catchy chorus is even less optimistic as it closes with, “When Christmas comes/What’s lurking goes.”
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST: A Los Campesinos! Christmas EP comes out on Tuesday, but a preliminary listen shows that the Campesinos aren’t limiting themselves to referencing popular Christmas tunes and fixating on relationships (though neither of these characteristics are in short supply). Their biggest deviation is “The Holly & The Ivy,” a pretty low-key acoustic number that leans into the religious reason for the season and sounds like it could have been written by Sufjan Stevens. They also do an admirable cover of Mud‘s “Lonely This Christmas” by giving the doo-wop track a prominent synth line and showing that Gareth is capable of honest-to-goodness singing.
CHEER FACTOR: 8/10. It gets a bit maudlin, but the undertone is celebratory. I’d much rather have this in my head than 80 percent of the holiday standards that are currently playing in the metro areas’s coffee shops and department stores.