Los Campesinos!'s progression as a band (both musically and in terms of line-up) over the last couple of years has been rapid, something which has been encapsulated with Hello Sadness, their aptly titled fourth album. As its title might suggest, Hello Sadness is an album about sadness, about heart break and loneliness. Yes, it’s a hugely personal album – spurred on by frontman Gareth’s relationship breakup shortly before its recording – but at the same time its themes are universal.

The album’s opener, ‘By Your Hand’, announced the return of the band back in September when it was released as a free download. The track is an open and honest account of a one night stand. Lyrics wise, it is full of the witty and clever metaphors that Gareth does best. (Plus it has the added bonus of a mini rap by new(ish) member Rob, a.k.a Sparky Deathcap). Musically, the opener has a more upbeat feel than the rest of the album, with its keyboard intro and handclap filled group vocal riddled choruses.

‘Songs About Your Girlfriend’ is the most immediate and Los Campesinos-esque track on the album which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on their previous full-length offering Romance is Boring. It’s a faced paced guitar anthem that’s likely to be stuck in your head for the next one thousand years. After that we have first single proper, ‘Hello Sadness’, which, as the names suggests, our first real introduction to the sadness and despair that lies within this album. It’s lines like "It’s only hope that springs eternal / and that’s the reason why / this dripping from my broken heart is never running dry," which will ensure that ‘Hello Sadness’ becomes one of the definitive Los Campesinos! songs.

‘Hope For The Island’ marks the album’s halfway point and it’s here that everything suddenly becomes much bleaker and emotional. Musically the track itself is pretty stripped back, contrasting nicely with the lyrics, which are incredibly powerful and dark – perhaps the darkest on the album, and whilst previous tracks hint at the emotion behind this record ‘Hate For The Island’ drags it to a whole other place.

‘The Black Bird, The Dark Slope’ is probably my favourite song off the album. Again, lyrically it’s pretty dark, full of grim imagery and metaphors about being consumed by a black bird. Despite this, ‘The Black Bird, The Dark Slope’ is fast paced and one of the more upbeat tracks of ‘Hello Sadness’. For me, the real strength of this track lies in the beauty of Kim’s vocals on the chorus and their contrast to the rest of the album.

A likely criticism of this album by some is that it’s less catchy and less immediate than other LC! releases, and while in part that’s true it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Musically, this album feels much more purposeful than its predecessors. I don’t know whether it’s due to the lineup change or what, but each section of LC! seems to be at the top of their game for this album. Besides, anyone who thinks this album isn’t catchy hasn’t listen to ‘Baby I Got The Death Rattle’, which after a slow stripped back buildup, climaxes into one of the most infectious songs you’ll hear this year.

The easy route to go down when writing this review is that Hello Sadness is an album from a band that’s matured. A band which has grown. But this album is so much more than that. Both lyrically and musically Hello Sadness is the band’s strongest and most powerful album to date, but it’s also their most hard hitting, and you need to be ready for that.

For me, one of the great things about this record is the way the band have retained so much of their character, (and the qualities which people like me fell in love with) while creating something much darker and ultimately more purposeful. Los Campesinos! have been on the cusp of something truly great for a while now and Hello Sadness is another step in that direction. Despite their aforementioned pace in releases (this is the band’s fourth album in as many years), Hello Sadness is an album by a band who now truly have found their voice, and who can only get better.