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Palace - Shoals Music Album Reviews

Palace - Shoals Music Album Reviews
Instead of a reinvention, the London band’s latest album jumps at the chance to blend in with every other rock act on the festival circuit.

Can I be sure that Palace didn’t share an NME cover with Elbow and South in 2001? Did they not arrive in America as an opening act for Travis or Doves? I swear they could’ve gotten into a minor press beef with Embrace or Athlete, or maybe it’s a foggy memory of spinning “Heaven Up There” alongside Starsailor at the Sam Goody listening booth. It’s been nearly 20 years since the UK was flooded by bands with similarly functional names that sounded a lot like Palace: lush, languid, lovelorn, and satisfying ongoing demand for Jeff Buckley-esque falsetto flourishes after Radiohead discovered the Warp catalog. Palace have mostly had this space to themselves since their 2014 EP Lost in the Night fast-tracked them to endemically UK forms of hype: getting handpicked as an opener for Jamie T’s comeback show, playing the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury months before their first LP was released. But with their third album, Shoals, the London quartet undertake an admirable and ultimately pyrrhic quest to blend in with every other British rock band on the festival circuit right now.

Had Palace started as a typical, trend-conscious buzz band rather than a Y2K throwback, they might have ended up here a decade later anyway. Lead single “Gravity” tipped their hand: “I’ve got sleep deprivation,” Leo Wyndham moans as Palace somnambulates through five minutes of psychedelic soul pumped with quaaludes and dry ice. It would’ve filled the gap left by Darkside in the eight years since Psychic had an actual Darkside album not shown up one month earlier. “Fade” veered in a different direction, a brisk krautrock/dream-pop hybrid clearly modeled off DIIV, though infused with a magisterial vocal and production aesthetic that’s otherwise the polar opposite of Oshin. Taken together, “Gravity” and “Fade” demonstrate the range and the boundaries of Shoals, a modernized but familiar variety of the heavy-lidded strains of R&B and vibey rock that serve as the working definition of “indie” on most Spotify playlists.

These updates on their sound still don’t address the main shortcoming of Palace’s two previous albums: For a band of their stature, they are curiously averse to big chunes, and Wyndham’s windblown delivery inflates their meandering melodies to a tenuous grandeur. That’s still the case on Shoals, where the festival flag-wavers are equally sedative as the songs where the vocals stretch into pure texture. Leo Abrahams’ stylish production steers the discussion toward his previous work with Brian Eno and Jon Hopkins, even if Shoals just as often makes me think of a weighted blanket or paint roller soaked in aloe vera.

This outcome is likely preferable to Palace “fearlessly embracing our pop side” or whatever bands say before their synthy pivot, since the album’s most grating moments arise from the dissonance between Wyndham’s maudlin vocals and his increasingly conversational lyrics. He spends much of Shoals in that half-falsetto, half-chest moan that makes voice coaches wish James Blake and Bon Iver never made it past 2010, an approach suited to the self-explanatory “Friends Forever,” “Lover (Don’t Let Me Down),” or rhyming “insane” with “pain” on a song called “Give Me the Rain.” It also turns Shoals into unintentional parody whenever its lyrics sheet reads like a gooey IG caption: “You elevate the heart of me/You’ve ghosted my negativity.”

More than any new musical influence, Palace have found inspiration in the pandemic, probably the album’s most contemporary aspect. While the massive success of their first two records could easily be taken for a mandate for more of the same, the quartet were given the opportunity to rethink a process they’ve kept in place since they formed as 13-year-olds. Wyndham contracted COVID and had legitimate concerns that he would never sing or even breathe normally again: As he told NME, “When music was taken away, I started to wonder what my purpose was,” and he tried to put aside simple love songs to reckon with existential dread, childhood trauma, and mental health. Palace now quote Nelson Mandela in their press materials and describe the band as a union of four autonomous artistic entities. Opener “Never Said It Was Easy” is the boldest evidence of Palace’s ambition, as Wyndham traces his path from the physical maladies of his youth to his mental struggles of today over layers of sampled, unquantized piano and textured harmonies. The best song on Shoals follows immediately: “Shame on You” is the kind of sweeping, weeping power ballad that Coldplay perfected and then spent the past 20 years trying not to write anymore. This is what makes Shoals truly a product of its time: Instead of seizing the opportunity for a complete overhaul, Palace jumped at the chance to get back to normal.

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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.
Palace - Shoals Music Album Reviews Palace - Shoals Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, February 04, 2022 Rating: 5

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