The name Pale Waves evokes visions of creamy, sparkly dream-pop or shoegaze before assuming the creation of artifice. Yet Pale Waves definitely slot neatly into the indie-pop category, especially with the release of their latest album, Who Am I?
Who Am I? picks up where the band’s debut album, My Mind Makes Noise, left off, only rather than exuding washes of ‘80s flavours jumps ahead twenty years, pushing out essences from the turn of the century, the 2000s.
Fronted by vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie, whose name screams distinction, the other members of the band include Ciara Doran (drums), Hugo Silvani (guitar), and Charlie Wood (bass). Citing influences from Avril Lavigne, Courtney Love, and Dolores O’Riordan, Baron-Gracie travelled to SoCal to write the songs on Who Am I? The band remained in the UK, recording the album via the internet.
Embracing 11-tracks, the album starts with “Change,” opening on gleaming pop colours flowing into a song reminiscent of Avril Lavigne. Baron-Gracie’s voice, one of pop’s deluxe vocalists, is at once vibrant and yummy. Resembles Avril. In other words, Stylistically, alluring, the track is tantalizing and evocative.
The album's best track is “She’s My Religion,” opening on darker tones topped by Baron-Gracie’s lush voice. Oozing sleazy synths and platinum-laced guitars infuse the tune with shadowy, mysterious surface hues as Baron-Gracie struts the nuanced textures of her smoky voice.
“Easy” is little more than an Avril Lavigne doppelganger, emulating Lavigne’s trademark sonic ebb and flow, followed by a gooey conclusion. Whereas “Wish U Were Here” conjures up memories of early Taylor Swift, blending pop-rock-lite textures with tints of country-pop.
Rife with touches of pop-punk muscle, “Tomorrow” features a tight, rumbling rhythm with growling guitars pumping out a hazy wall-of-sound on the chorus as Baron-Gracie struts her undeniably deluxe timbres. “Run To” amalgamates the jangly sensation of The Go-Go’s, along with potent dynamics.
The album closes with the title track, riding a low-slung melancholic piano, while Baron-Gracie deliciously moody tones imbue the lyrics with urgent, passionate colouration. The track’s title broaches a pertinent question: Who are Pale Waves? Right now, they seem to be experimenting with various indie-pop aromas, while they’re at their best when tip-toeing along the brink of tumescent alternative leitmotifs.
Admittedly, sophomore albums are notoriously tricky, granting bands purview to establish their singular sound. While Who Am I? is a good album, one suspects it’s just the tip of the iceberg in Pale Waves’ latent inventory of music.