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Music Reviews

Sad Happy

Circa Waves
Released: 03.13.20
Review by Sam Devotta | March 12, 2020 at 9:40 PM

But it’s hard to make sense out of the movie
When you’re in the starring role

You know that moment when you’re at a celebration and you’re both happy it’s happening, yet sad that it’s coming to an end? That’s exactly what the two-part album Sad Happy feels like. Released by Liverpool indie band Circa Waves, less than a year after their last record, Sad Happy is an exploration of two very different emotions and it will leave you wanting more.

The first half, Happy, was released in January. It kicks off with the addictive “Jacqueline”—full of bright cheerful guitars—you’ll be bopping around to it in no time. But listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll realize it’s actually about a young single mother struggling to get through it all and in need of a little encouragement. Similarly, “Move to San Francisco” is the perfect summer jam with a big drumline and singalong chorus, but from the very first lines—“If nothing else, I’m feeling zen / It seems the world is gone to shit again”—you get the sense that it’s tinged with skepticism, that maybe running away from your problems isn’t the solution. “Love You More”, the last track on Happy, has the same sort of cynical overtones—“Darling, I love you more than you could ever love me”—but the gentle guitars and soft drum fills make the shift into Sad seamless.

Sad completes the album in more than one sense. Yes, it’s literally the second half of the album, but it also brings the emotional upheaval you experience in the first half to a close. “Sad Happy”, like “Love You More”, bridges the gap. On the surface, it’s bouncy and light, but the lyrics tell a different story. One look at the video, featuring the band in clown make-up, reinforces the idea that it’s possible to be both sad and happy at the same time and the lines between two such stark emotions are blurrier than we may have realized. 

“Train to Lime Street” feels like an interlude you’d expect from The 1975. There’s no vocals, it’s just the sound of a train journey, the ambient noises in the background, as you make your way from place to place. Closing track “Birthday Cake” is the slowest, most personal of the songs. It’s flavored with self-deprecation and the anxiety of getting older, watching life pass you by. The twanging guitars and fuzzy fade-out bring to mind 90s alternative rock—Circa Waves has the ability to take familiar sounds and make them fresh by mixing up the percussion or synths. 

Sad Happy works as a double album because you can listen to it in parts—depending on your mood—but take a moment to sit with the whole thing and enjoy the emotional rollercoaster.

Buy it, Stream it, or Skip it? Buy it! Like the best kinds of celebration, Sad Happy brings with it a range of emotions but you’ll be glad you stuck it out to the end.

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