Album review: ‘Who Am I?’ – Pale Waves

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Pale Waves have released their second album ‘Who Am I?’. The band made up of Heather Baron-Gracie (vocals/guitarist), Ciara Doran (drummer), Hugo Silvani (guitarist) and Charlie Wood (bassist), have had this album in their hands for so long as the release was postponed due to the pandemic.

‘Who Am I?’ was recorded in Los Angeles with the help of producer Rich Costey (Muse, Foo Fighters) before the lockdown prolonged it, meaning they all had to do it virtually.

Fans will already be aware of the singles already released prior to the full album that set the expectation for it to fulfil.

Following their debut album release ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ in 2018, this album conveys themes such as self-discovery, inclusivity and mental health and is essentially the Pale Waves manifesto.

The band released tracks ‘Change’, ‘She’s My Religion’, ‘Easy’ and ‘You Don’t Own Me’ for a preview to the rest of the album. They also released a last-minute track ‘Fall to Pieces’.

Baron-Gracie has referenced Avril Lavigne, Courtney Love and Taylor Swift as key influences for this second album.

They truly bring indie-pop to life whilst exploring the darker themes of sexuality, break-ups and depression.

Image credit – Ian Cheek Press

The lead track and first released single ‘Change’ highlighted that this album was a new Baron-Gracie and a new Pale Waves. It was the ideal statement to show fans what this new album was going to be like.

Although the song is pop-rock, it has darker undertones of finding yourself trapped in a cycle of constantly hoping someone will ‘change’ and the pain that comes with it.

‘Fall to Pieces’ the next track in the album and of a similar theme, shows that period where a relationship is overrunning its course. These are both energetic songs with upbeat chorus uses that therefore convey these situations in a different but excellent way.

Fall to Pieces is about going through that constant cycle of arguing and then making up. It can be hard to break that pattern – sometimes you wonder if you ever will.”

Heather Baron-Gracie

‘She’s My Religion’ is the track that is the most authentic and special particularly for Baron-Gracie. It highlights same-sex love in the purest form.

She wanted to break the stigma by having a different approach and not adding to the over-sexualised productions in the music industry when representing LGBTQ relationships.

This was done beautifully by Baron-Gracie having her own girlfriend with her in the music video.

‘Easy’ is an emo love song, it even has Baron-Gracie dressed as a gothic bride in the music video. It shows the happiness that comes from naturally being in love and having those feelings reciprocated.

Image credit – Pale Waves Instagram

The breakdown of relationships is revisited in ‘Wish U Were Here’. The acoustic backing throughout is what makes this track so blissful to listen to along with the soft vocals.

‘Tomorrow’ (an unreleased but previously performed song) shows the scenario of having relationships (friendships or lovers) and each individual having their own personal problems.

Both verses state first names as Baron-Gracie addresses them and shows her desire to help. The chorus and bridge sees her pleading for them to hold on and just see out ‘tomorrow’.

The song also addresses their LGBTQ fanbase by stating “sexuality isn’t a choice”.

Image credit – Pale Waves Instagram

‘You Don’t Own Me’ explores the challenges of being a woman in society. At a time where gender equality seems a world away, this is a much needed track.

It is empowering as it tells the listener to do what they want and not to let anyone tell them what they can and cannot do. This is a relatable song that hits back at everyday scenarios women face that seem so minor but actually have negative effects.

“About what it’s like to be a woman in this world; how society depicts, judges and criticises women on a daily basis.”

Heather Baron-Gracie

Another much needed song comes from ‘I Just Needed You’. In the materialistic world today, deep down people know that items fail to fulfil and bring happiness.

This is what Baron-Gracie puts across in this track. It is another authentic moment from her as she admits to how she thought fame would give her everything.

She learns that these things are all temporary which is when the chorus kicks in with that realisation- “I just needed you to be happy”. The vocals in this are so real adding to its effect.

‘Odd Ones Out’ is one of the slower tracks with another acoustic guitar backing and a powerful yet soft melody. It creates this idea that people in same-sex relationships are often made to feel different and shut out from the rest of society.

Therefore, this is Baron-Gracie claiming that back and making it cool to have someone and be in it together.

The last rock-pop sound is ‘Run To’. It has a catchy beat but listeners are still drawn to that deeper meaning which is a recurring realisation. It suggests the idea of breaking out of the habit of relying on someone to help you during bad times.

Image credit – Ian Cheek Press

The album title and final track ‘Who Am I?’ is the one that will leave the listener with all of the emotions. This is Baron-Gracie’s self-discovery that fans are proud of.

It is the most authentic and the vocals are beautiful especially in the chorus. The acoustic guitar is revisited and there is a piano used making this different from the rest.

This may have been on purpose to leave that powerful effect. This song also conveys being in a bad place and wanting a sign of release.

Pale Waves’ second album has shown the band’s progression. Baron-Gracie’s songwriting is incredible, it is rare that an artist really opens up and has relatable themes in each song.

To see a band grow and show so much progress and openness from a debut album is special.

“For me, music and art is for people not to feel so alone and isolated; I want to be that person my fans look up to and find comfort in”.

Heather Baron-Gracie

Pale Waves come to Glasgow next February amongst other UK cities on their ‘Who Am I?’ tour where fans will hear the album live.

‘Who Am I?’ is available now in all music-streaming services.

Featured image credit – NME

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