Concept albums have always been a compelling venture for artists to explore, and if executed properly, will stand the test of time. The nature of concept albums is that they are, as self-described, based around a concept, but what happens when that concept is practically synonymous with another? Liverpudlian indie rock powerhouses Circa Waves' Sad Happy is the result of compounding the concept formula into two albums, juxtaposing one eponymous theme against the other.
The release itself didn't follow a typical release strategy either, vocalist and guitarist Kieran Shuddall shared, "People seem a bit confused by it, which is only a good thing I think. The songs have had the best response we have ever had, it’s amazing." You might be asking, why the approach of releasing happy inspired tracks followed by this new take? Of which Kieran offered this riposte, "I think the closeness between happiness and sadness is so prevalent for this generation," alluding to the instantaneous nature of modern life. "I wanted to shine a light on it and talk about how mad it can be to be around it and experience it."
Despite the stark separation on the double-album, their music has never truly taken to either side of this spectrum, and when prompted on the writing process he shared that "It was all written together and then separated after. I was fun to work out what worked on each side." Naturally, there are many layers to this release that extends beyond the simple juxtaposition, and when on the topic of inspirations for the album, he went the non-musical route, noting "My love of Liverpool and growing older felt like they kept coming up. I was also about to have my first child when I was writing and recording so there was a certain maturity to the themes I felt."
On the subject of personal standouts from the release, Kieran picked "Birthday Cake" from the Sad side, noting that "I think it’s one of the more honest songs I’ve ever written. I love the Mazzy Star feel to it as well." He went onto provide a unique insight to another, "The choir in "Love You More" is actually us in our shorts inside a big room, we tracked it about 10 times so it sounded massive."
The result of their efforts is a 46-minute foray through the many shades of their music, from the effervescent anthemia of "Jacqueline", and the effortlessly catchy "Wasted On You" from the first half, all the way to the downtempo melancholy found on "Sympathy" and poignant synth-rock on "Hope There's A Heaven" on the second. Despite being seven years into their career, they still perform with the same adolescent effervescence of a band with something to prove, balanced by a veteran-level finesse that exceeds their years as an act. Sad Happy proves that Circa Waves will forever be at the top of their game.