BC Camplight – How to Die In the North

Rating: ★★★★☆

After eight years out of the game, BC Camplight has re-emerged with an album that is the fruit of some very hard labour.

It’s been a process that has pushed Brain Christinzio to breaking point during its darkest moments, but the result is a record that exudes joy – albeit through the Philadelphian’s filter of occasional demoralisation and misplaced pessimism.

At the heart of How to Die In the North – an album that was borne out of Christinzio’s move to Manchester – is a knack for a killer melody and classic pop structure, but the real beauty is that there is so much more going on beneath.

The record kicks off in soaring fashion with yesterday’s Track of the Day ‘You Should’ve Gone to School’. The opening bars get the head nodding from the off, with an infectious bass line and vocal from backing singer Hattie Coombe, but it’s not an album that stays on the straight and narrow for long.

‘Love Isn’t Anybody’s Fault’ is another pleasant slice of pop on first listen, but the unexpected addition of some crashing guitars and enchanting interludes through the world of psychedelia soon take the ear somewhere completely different.

The record’s true rock ‘n’ roll showstopper doesn’t take long to make itself known. ‘Grim Cinema’ initially arrives in meek fashion, with Christinzio relying on an unusually low register and musing over how “making love to a senator” might play out. But it all leads up to an explosion of falsetto, enthralling guitar work and a chorus that really does cement BC Camplight’s position as a beast that headed to the North to die, but ended up more alive than ever.

It’s an album that goes on to twist, turn and meander in a way that can’t help but suck you in. There’s enough fuzz and reverb to encapsulate the cynical shoegazers out there, but the smattering of undeniable pop hooks is the spine of the LP.

On the lyrical side of things, it’s something of a rollercoaster too. Christinzio takes us on a tour of despair, lonliness, humour and abstraction – a blend that can only come from a collage of songwriting tended to over such a period of time.

Another real standout is ‘Thieves In Antigua’, a defining party moment where the dreamy pop vibe is traded for a mariachi-style shindig. On a record where the most predominant semantics often breed sorrow, this is an undeniable snapshot of a man having a great time.

Thereafter, the sound is one that is far more reflective, but there is time for one last curtain call and confirmation that every now and again, Christinzio is a sucker for a tearjerking, ‘lighters in the air’ finale. ‘Why Doesn’t Anybody Fall In Love’ brings proceedings to a close in a spectacular manner.

How to Die In the North is available via Bella Union from Monday. You can also catch BC Camplight live on the following upcoming UK dates:

20/01/15 – Rough Trade East, London
23/01 – Manchester, Gorilla
01/02 – Glasgow, Fruitmarket (Celtic Connections)
08/03 – Bristol. The Louisiana
09/03 – Birmingham, The Hare & Hounds
10/03 – London, The Lexington
11/03 – Liverpool, The Leaf

Patrick Davies

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