Pale Waves - Who Am I? Music Album Reviews

Pale Waves - Who Am I? Music Album Reviews
The Manchester quartet is still stuck as an imitation act, but their love for 2000s-era singer-songwriter pop—and their star potential—comes through.

With their steely, eyelinered gaze and leather jackets, Pale Waves look like the kind of band that knows how it wants to be seen. Though their output is fairly new—they’ve released two albums, 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises and their latest, Who Am I?—they’ve been around for the better half of a decade, founded in 2014 when vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran met at university in Manchester. They gained international attention three years later, when the 1975 frontman Matty Healy took the band under his wing, signing them to his label, Dirty Hit, directing a music video, and occasionally serving as producer. “The songs were there, so my involvement in writing was only editing,” Healy told NME in 2017. “I always have a fear of being overbearing. I know what it’s like to want to be prided on your own merits.”
But the bubbly synths, 1980s-style guitar riffs, and syrupy vocal melodies on My Mind Makes Noises frequently sounded like a less experienced 1975 anyway. On Who Am I?, Pale Waves forgo ’80s revival entirely to take cues from Baron-Gracie’s avowed hero Avril Lavigne and shared elements of 2000s singer-songwriters like Michelle Branch or Kelly Clarkson: effervescent electric hooks, strummy acoustic backup, and demure harmonies. Although Pale Waves is still stuck as an imitation act, their love for this strand of pop-rock certainly comes through, resulting in some of the most pleasantly sugared Britpop since the 2010s-era Mumford & Sons invasion.

Aside from the moody cover art, an instantly recognizable homage to Let Go, Lavigne’s influence is most obvious on “Change,” whose guitar-led catharsis is the musical and thematic little sister to “Complicated.” Baron-Gracie’s cries of, “Now you act like I’m nobody/But you still want to go down on me” is an edgier echo of, “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?” It’s easy to imagine “Change” falling flat in its imitation, but Pale Waves manage to make a song nearly as good as the original. The rebellious sunshine of “You Don’t Own Me” will make you wish you were skipping school, and “Wish U Were Here,” a lonelier “Kiss Me” filled with comparable yearning, indicate that Pale Waves know exactly what it takes to power a resurgence of ’00s guitar pop. They prioritize characteristic big-but-innocent emotions like love and loss, clever lyrics worth scratching into your notebook, and guitar melodies as sweetly weepy as you imagine your crush to be.

But at times, Who Am I? starts to feel sleepy, suffering from a lack of personality. The line between Pale Waves’ own positive qualities and those they’ve borrowed from their inspirations is wire-thin, and though they clearly know what makes a good guitar-pop song, they haven’t figured out how to make a better one. Baron-Gracie’s singing suffers from too much air, and she wheezes at the end of nearly every sung phrase, a habit that’s only charming on occasion. A pared-down song like the eponymous ballad “Who Am I?” puts Pale Waves’ songwriting and skill to the test, but winds up sounding more like a demo than the closing track of their second studio album.

But this band isn’t without its charms, or the potential for Avril-level recognition that Baron-Gracie is so inspired by. Her vocal limitations, although very present, are distinctive. She cultivates an inspirationally ostentatious goth look and writes lyrics about gay love with tender simplicity (one of the album’s best songs, “She’s My Religion,” is a reverential ode to a partner’s flaws; Baron-Gracie’s girlfriend stars in the music video). She’s primed to become the lesbian rock star young gay girls like me have dreamed of since childhood, the kind that just didn’t really exist in the mainstream until recently. The dewy-eyed sound of Who Am I? appeals to a younger generation, confirming that modern Britpop doesn’t always equate to aggressive young men—it can be gentle goths with their friends, writing songs for kids hoping to figure out who they are. All Pale Waves have to do now is figure out the answer to that question themselves.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Pale Waves - Who Am I? Music Album Reviews Pale Waves - Who Am I? Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 25, 2021 Rating: 5


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