Circa Waves – What’s It Like Over There?

Swimming in a new direction suits them.
Label: Prolifica Inc. / PIAS
Released: 5th April 2019
Rating: ★★★★

Like a shark, most indie bands need to keep moving in order to survive – there’s always a bigger fish coming along after all. For album number three however, Circa Waves frontman Kieran Shudall was struggling for inspiration. That was until a moment of serendipity gave him everything he needed when he re-discovered a notebook full of half-forgotten scribblings written on the road of a previous US tour. Using the distance (both in time and location) as a starting point, the band have leapt into new waters.

In ‘What’s It Like Over There?’, the band have created something that few would have seen coming, a seismic shift away from their usual big guitar sound into something far poppier and unrestrained by tired old tropes. If opener ‘Sorry, I’m Yours’ provides a small step with its sparing guitar lines used to maximum effect amongst a sea of space and silence, then ‘Times Won’t Change Me’ is the giant leap. A gospel-tinged bluesy piano number, Shudall and Joe Falconer’s guitars hover at the edge but never quite creep into view. Strikingly different to anything the band have done before, it is but the first in a number of bold moves.

‘The Way We Say Goodbye’ shows a band familiar with ‘X&Y’-era Coldplay, a song patiently building to a satisfying pay-off. ‘Passport’ meanwhile, is pure MOR, its jingle-jangle piano rhythms jauntily nudging the song into something even McCartney would give a thumbs up to. Anyone fearing that the guitars may have completely left the building needn’t worry, however. ‘Saviour’ stomps over the finish line, a joyous explosion of sound bringing the record to a seriously big climax and one that shows that they have lost none of their bite. Swimming in a new direction suits them.

Jamie MacMillan

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