Wolf Alice have embraced the challenge of the sophomore album with aplomb. Rather than just re-treading what they did with their debut album My Love is Cool, the band have turned it up to 11 and produced one of the best albums of the year.
Opening track ‘Heavenward’ starts off with a soft string section before screeching into electrifying guitar. Ellie’s voice sounds angelic as she sings “go heavenward”, with it having an almost dream-like quality to it.
This is followed up by the first single released from the album, ‘Yuk Foo’. When Theo, the bassist, told me they wanted to release it first as it was a song people could jump around to, he wasn’t lying. It’s a stark contrast to the melodic song before it. Ellie screams “I want to fuck all the people I meet… I don’t give a shit”. She has never sounded angrier and is accompanied by the rest of the band playing the most aggressively they’ve ever been in a track that has a thrash metal sound to it, that will be phenomenal live.
‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ shows a quieter, tender side of the band as it cuts to the core of the excitement of getting to know someone with lyrics like “I look at your picture and I smile” and a hypnotically romantic bassline that almost has a cinematic quality to it, much like M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming album. This pairs quite nicely with a later track on the album ‘St. Purple & Green’, which is about more familial love. With lyrics like “You might be changing but you’re still here and you’re still my Nana”, it feels deeply personal and introspective which makes it stand out in an album full of beautiful song-writing.
‘Sky Musings’ is Theo’s favourite track and it’s understandable to see why. Ellie’s hushed voice sounds eerie over an ominous sounding rhythm section. It’s a haunting and electrifying listen.
‘Formidable Cool’ reflects the variety on show in this album as it takes the sound off in a whole new direction with a plucky bassline and Ellie’s echoey vocals. This contrasts with ‘Sadboy’, a track that starts off with a more mellow vibe before progressing with an almost military march-like drum before exploding into screeching rock, which is in-keeping with the rather dark lyrics.
‘After the Zero Hour’ is an artfully simple song. It starts with just Ellie’s voice and an acoustic guitar before progressing with a haunting production, reminiscent of Florence and the Machine’s ‘Ceremonials’ album.
The album closes out with the title track ‘Visions of a Life’. It’s an epic of a track, clocking in at nearly eight minutes long and works almost like a showcase of all that has come before it. It progresses throughout thanks to explosive riffs and haunting, introspective lyrics with Ellie’s voice varying from being hauntingly melodic to screaming with anger, showing off her impressive vocal range.
Avoiding the sophomore slump, Wolf Alice have built on what they did before by experimenting with different musical ideas while retaining the reflective lyrics that make their songs so great. This is an album of contrasts, from vibrant pop hooks to angry and cathartic rock, resulting in one of the boldest albums I’ve heard in a long time.
5 out of 5