Saturday, February 20, 2021

Pale Waves return to form with outspoken new album ‘Who Am I?

Manchester indie pop band Pale Waves have returned with the release of their highly anticipated second album ‘Who Am I? A title which is incredibly apt for a band who are beginning to explore their own identity now more than ever before. The sophomore effort sees the band abandon the more melodic side of their arsenal seen on 2018’s debut effort ‘My Mind Makes Noises’, in favor of a more anthemic collection of songs which, on the whole, celebrate sexuality and a feeling of deliverance from suffocating social constructs.  

Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the single ‘She’s My Religion’. A stripped back indie rock track which serves to demonstrate Heather Baron-Gracie's lyrical prowess. With lines like, ‘there’s more going on behind the scenes, she needs this love just as much as me’ Baron-Gracie serves up a metaphor for a kind of love which someone can get wrapped up in whilst also trying to hide it from the prying eyes of a judgmental society. 

Sonically, the first half of the ‘Who Am I?’ leans more on a palette of influences from the early 2000’s like Avril Lavigne whilst maintaining the incorporation of the synth pop that gained the band notoriety with their early releases and debut album. 

With the second half of ‘Who Am I?’, we see a more inspirational side of Pale Waves, something not previously explored in detail in prior releases from the band. With the track ‘Tomorrow’ we see Baron-Gracie take on a more nurturing role, aiming to empower anyone feeling disenfranchised or run down by social media and its expectations. There are no better examples of this than in the first verse with the lyrics: ‘And Haley, I know the magazines say to be skinny, you're one of a kind, just trust me, trust me, don't listen to society’. A line with enough backlash on society’s perceived image of beauty to make any listener stand up and feel empowered. 

The focus of the album then shifts to gender stereotypes and challenges archaic ideas that surround misplaced notions of femininity. The first verse is a fine example of this with the words: ‘no one nightstands for you or they'll think that you're a whore, you better cross your legs cause that's not very lady-like, don't wanna hear your thoughts, don't even start to speak your mind.’ 

Throughout the track Baron-Gracie gives a first-class explanation as to why old-fashioned expectations of how women should behave have no place in a 21st century society. 

This then shifts to the 90’s grunge inspired ‘I Just Needed You’, a song which at its core begins to challenge the notion that consumerism alone can bring happiness to a person’s life. We see thus in the lines: ‘I thought I wanted fame, thought I wanted money, to just be somebody, thought I wanted fancy clothes, people come and go, a pill to pick me up when I'm feeling low, wanted a fast car, to drive far and subsequently with the conclusive ending: ‘I just needed you, to be happy’. 

On the whole, Pale Waves deserve an abundance of credit for producing such a rich album. ‘Who Am I?’ is diverse with a myriad of musical influences accompanied by lyrical themes which would serve to inspire any listener feeling disenfranchised with societal norms. Creating an album can be hard at the best of times, however it is amazing to see in the context of a pandemic that Pale Waves continue to flourish by avoiding the notorious sophomore slump. 

Connor Fairhurst

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Image Credits: Dirty Hit

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