A message that underpins ‘Who Am I?’ is that to truly love someone is to love everything about them, even the bad things. I first stumbled across Pale Waves while at university, becoming infatuated by their whole aesthetic and sound. The Goth look, with chorus sodden guitars and 80’s synth really worked for me. So you can imagine the surprise I got when listening to this new album, in which they’ve changed their sound. ‘Who Am I?’ instead feels like a Britpop album, though one that fell under the radar. Although Pale Wave’s Heather comes across more charismatic and self confident here than on ‘My Mind Makes Noises’, this album is only on the cusp of being something special. This confidence radiates throughout ‘Who Am I’, where the band explores more traditional instrumentation, attempting to differentiate their sound from their previous album.
Talking highlights, ‘She’s My Religion’ is one. Nothing short of a brilliant love song. Distorted guitar riffs, punchy drums, swirly synth pads, and angelic vocals glue it all together. Heather sings honestly and brutally about the girl she loves. “She’s cold, she’s dark, she’s cynical. She’s forever angry at the world, She’s no angel, but she is my religion.” Everybody feels this one way or another about the one they love at some-point during their life, making it a highly relatable moment for listeners. The band captures this feeling perfectly with a well produced pop tune here. Big tune. Big feelings. No messing.
‘I Just Needed You’ is lyrically it’s spot on. Heather speaks about fame, money and wanting everything on demand, but in the end she concludes with ‘I Just Needed You’. Despite having melodically lyrically, the track comes across very monotonous instrumentally. It doesn’t seem to go anywhere, sounding as if it’s leading up to the massive chorus we know the band are more than capable of making, but then falling flat.
‘Odd Ones Out’ is a breath of fresh air. It sounds polished, constantly keeping you engaged by adding different instrumentation. Even though it starts very simple with two hard panned acoustic guitars, it develops, incorporating the use of a string section. This definitely shows how far the band has come from simpler Stranger things-esque synth pop, to trying something different and it paying off.
From being part of the lgbtq+ community, to love, fear, confidence, and courage, to how to stop giving a fuck about what people think of you, ‘Who Am I’ covers a plethora of lyrical topics. However, musically the album just feels little underwhelming as a whole. From the monotonous acoustic guitar of ‘I Just Needed You’, to the Aviril Lavigne inspired tune ‘You Don’t Own Me’, they undersell my expectations. Despite this, I guarantee that out there, in this huge fucked up blue ball we all live on, is someone who needs to listen to this album to reinforce the fact that you should never be ashamed of your sexuality or who you love. If I could, I would give this 5 stars solely on that basis. Writing a second album is rather difficult and some of the best bands struggle to accomplish this, but it feels as if Pale Waves are experimenting with a different sound than the first album, which in my opinion made Pale Waves who they are. I’d like to finish by saying this album may not be the best work they’ve produced, but a necessary steppingstone to a fucking brilliant career for the entire band.
‘Who am I?’ is released via Dirty Hit on Fri Feb 12.