Though this indiepop quartet is based in London, most of the material on My Sad Captains’ second full-length flowed out of a long and lonely Thanksgiving weekend chief songwriter Ed Williams spent in San Francisco. Separated from his friends and family while everyone around him was enjoying time with theirs, he produced a set of songs shrouded in low-level melancholy. Fight Less, Win More suspends this sadness in weightless arrangements and glowing harmonies, underneath which lies a complex interplay of musical and lyrical ideas.
As with the band’s 2009 album Here & Elsewhere, whispers of pre-White Album era Beatles flit in and out of the mix: Williams summons up endless, effortlessly pretty hooks without resorting to clunking chorus lines or overwrought melodramatics. There’s a darker, vaguely futuristic undercurrent at play too, with the indistinct analogue warbles of “The Home Front” and the taut rhythms of “Minah Bird” recalling the breezier aspects of Kosmische pioneers Neu! But in contrast to the generally pessimistic tone of Williams’s lyrics — “it’s a long way home, and you live alone,” he sings in “Threes” — the songs here have a tendency to bloom into quiet bliss, warm chimes and soft, sunny synths implying that maybe things aren’t so bleak, after all. Choosing intimate subtlety over ostentation at every turn, Fight Less, Win More is as unassertively triumphant as its title implies.