Pale Waves – The Debut Album

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‘My Mind Makes Noises’ is the culmination of a whirlwind year for Pale Waves. At the start of the year they were tipped by many to achieve big things – off the back of a slot supporting The 1975 and a few tracks received well by the industry (which would ultimately form ‘All The Things I Never Said EP’).

Despite how excited I’ve been for this album, since picking the band as my ‘Ones To Watch’ for SCAN earlier this year, I must admit I was apprehensive to hear the release. Of course I knew the songs would be good: five out of the fourteen tracks had been previously released – including the debut single ‘There’s A Honey’ and mainstream successes such as ‘Eighteen’ and ‘Kiss’; but I was anxious to hear new material from the band and didn’t want the debut album to be little more than a collection of songs.

The album begins with three of these songs in sequence, so did little to quell my worry, but the gear-change into ‘Came in Close’ filled me with so much excitement. The delicate overtone of high-pitched synth and guitar introducing the track on its own gets you moving, even before Charlie and Ciara’s driving bass and drums build up into what becomes almost a pseudo-dance track, that like on ‘Red‘, reaches anthemic stature in terms of the crescendo during the chorus. This electronic vibe is carried on into ‘Loveless Girl‘ where auto-tune is used brilliantly, to compliment the flowing lyricism in the verses. The whole song seems ever so slightly off-beat, with the layers all working at a different pace but melding together perfectly.

‘My Mind Makes Noises’ – as the name would suggest – explores the complexity of modern existence and the effects that has on relationships; the band advertise this album as a “collection of stories about life, death, love, sex, friendship, anxiety and family”. This theme is evident in the lyrics of all the songs, ‘Drive’ talks about the millennial phenomena of doing anything “just to feel something” in a world where “no-one seems to understand”; ‘One More Time’ cries out for the simplicity of life “when we were 17”, to escape “drown[ing]” in time.

Beyond this, at first glance, you wouldn’t hear the reflection of such a sensitive tone in the sound of the band. Frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie’s vocals seem emotionally detached from the performance – having seen Pale Waves live I can see why people would think this, her tone and expression change very little from song to song and the instrumental behind her, for most of the songs, is uncharacteristically upbeat.

This isn’t the case, however, I interpret Heather’s nonchalance as numbness to the weight of emotions she faces, and clearly experiences, as she writes such personal lyrics. The positivity of the instrumentalists then become more like a show of perseverance, fighting through the hard times being faced and an inconsequence of those feelings shine through the rest of their being: “I’m not alright but it’s really fine”.

Photo by Sid Sowder via Flickr for Too Much Rock

Pale Waves manage to create more depth in this album than I first expected: the use of slower and more audibly sombre songs ‘When Did I Lose It All?’ and ‘She’ at the half way point of the album allows the band to demonstrate they are more than a one-trick pony and makes sure that the complex emotional undertones of the album cannot be overlooked. These songs tell the story of two breakups and the different effects that this can have. ‘She’ is the more poignant of these, offering a harrowing insight into the effects adultery has on self-esteem:

“I take my clothes off, I’m staring at myself, you wasn’t satisfied enough, so you fucked somebody else”

The album closes on a beautifully delicate note, that keeps you thinking well beyond the final chords of acoustic guitar. ‘Karl’ is a tribute to Heather’s brother who committed suicide when she was younger. This song explores the attitudes of those affected by suicide: her mother “puts on a brave face”, her dad “called you crazy” and Heather herself struggles to cope with feelings of her own depression and anxiety – “I see so you in me lately”. The main chorus of the song cuts away at these attitudes and asks how much worse the individual must have been feeling than those left behind:

“I wonder what it’s like to die”

This album is simply brilliant – it is the sonic embodiment of the multifaceted experience of modern teenage angst


Pale Waves’ debut album ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ is out now!

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