Text: Lucy Tessier
A Celebration of Self Exploration, Pale Waves Release ‘Who Am I?’
Venturing into an enthralling new era of sound, the Manchester masters of synth and indie pop Pale Waves have returned with their sophomore record ‘Who Am I?’. Awakening the lost sounds of the 90s, this album pays homage to the power of self -acceptance and growth as the band delve into a new chapter in their musical journey.
There is nothing more humbling than watching a band grow from the underground depths of being virtually unknown, to dominating various music scenes internationally. Having discovered Pale Waves after the release of their timeless jangly anthem ‘There’s A Honey’, there was something undeniably iconic and infatuating about this band. What could only be described as the musical love child of The Cure and The 1975, the female led quartet were signed to The 1975’s label Dirty Hit and the rest is history… After a two year wait, Pale Waves have unleashed their second album ‘Who Am I?’; this addition to their discography balances the feelings of vulnerability and pain with honesty and freedom, as the band strives to unify and empower their fanbase.
From a first listen, it is impossible to not have the irresistibly catchy choruses of certain songs of the album echoing around one’s head for days, and Pale Waves achieve this from the get-go. The first single released from the album, ‘Change’, is the perfect icebreaker into a new division of sound and lyrical ingenuity. Confronting the agonizing fragmentation of a relationship, this track takes on the influence of the 90s grunge pop queen Avril Lavigne, with the strums of an acoustic guitar against Heather Baron-Gracie’s gorgeously warm vocals. “I wish I’d never seen your face, but hey / You’ve hurt me a thousand times before,” sings Baron-Gracie as the song presents a bittersweet contrast between its upbeat floaty instrumentals and cynical lyrics – the track allows listeners to test the waters of the band’s new direction.
Whilst ‘ My Mind Makes Noises’, the debut record from Pale Waves, centres around relationships and lost love, the diversity of themes present in ‘Who Am I?’ shows just how much this band has matured and developed. With songs that ache with desperate heartache and yearning such as ‘Fall To Pieces’, ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Change’ and ‘Who Am I?’, there is a distinct contrast in feeling with more celebratory anthems such as ‘Run To’, ‘Easy’, ‘She’s My Religion’ and ‘Tomorrow’. Complementing each other inextricably, ‘She’s My Religion’ and ‘Easy’ embody the imagery of fireworks at the end of a 90s rom-com or a coming-of-age movie – they are the crowd pleasers of the album and make our longing for fan sing-alongs at live shows even stronger. However, with every amazing album there must be one tear-jerker and ‘Who Am I?’, the final song on the record, delivers an exceptional display of fragility with a piano led and string decorated ballad. “Who am I? / I need a sign / Does anybody know?” sings Baron-Gracie as she encapsulates all of our darkest adolescent anxieties in a powerful finale. It is gloriously moving.
To say that fans of Pale Waves are loyal to the band is an understatement – they live and breathe for their artistry. A band that has always strayed from the norm aesthetically and musically, they are advocates for self-pride and expression, and this hailed in the songs ‘Odd Ones Out’, ‘You Don’t Own Me’ and ‘Tomorrow’. There is no doubt that these songs have been dedicated to the band’s fanbase with the rebellious and beautifully chaotic explosion of distorted guitars in ‘You Don’t Own Me’, alongside the revolutionary and uplifting force of the track ‘Tomorrow’. It is about time that artists of the LGBTQ+ wrote more openly about their sexuality, and Pale Waves are changing the times with songs like ‘Odd Ones Out’ which centres around the theme of defying the odds of a relationship despite the criticism of others. Through glorious musical efforts like these, Pale Waves speak for their fans and encourage them to honour the power of their own voices, making them one of the most empowering indie-pop bands to date.
With a tour lined up for the beginning of 2022, the release of ‘Who Am I?’ will certainly be received in various lights. Whether their new sound will be favoured by their fanbase appears promising, as they present a record that radiates with warmth, comfort, growth, and honesty. Pale Waves latest release is a journey into the mind of Baron-Gracie and her excursions of self-discovery, performed musically as life lessons for fans new and old. In light of this, there is a subtle irony in the title of the album – Pale Waves know exactly who they are and their artistic mission, and we cannot wait to see them embark on this new and remarkably enticing musical adventure.