Label: Dirty Hit Records
Released: 12th February 2021
Pale Waves only have one song. You’ve heard that one before, right? It’s a refrain that’s (rather unfairly) been repeated by some from the point they had more than one track to their name, carried through to their debut album and beyond. The truth is far more complex.
What Pale Waves excel in, Dear Reader, is a command of aesthetic. Their central pairing – Heather Baron-Gracie and Ciara Doran have always had a strong sense of their own sonic identity – a unifying filter laid heavy across everything they do. It’s a strength, not a weakness, and one which elevates their second album ‘Who Am I?’ considerably. A record that feels to be as much about the band’s self-discovery as people as it is their artistic evolution, a hard left swing into late-90s alt-pop wouldn’t have felt like the most obvious route to take, and yet it works brilliantly.
While many will reach straight for comparisons to cultural touchpoints like Avril Lavigne, there’s a much broader, more organic heart to ‘Who Am I?’. ‘Fall To Pieces’, ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘You Don’t Own Me’ are all huge – definitively Pale Waves but with a grungier, bubblegum heart. With a confessional tone but a wide-open heart, the sweeping ‘Odd Ones Out’ nails the leftfield power ballad, while the closing title track pulls at the heartstrings with guile.
‘Who Am I?’ is a lot of things. It’s a pop record from the recent past, an album that looks deep within but projects strongly outwards too. But what it most certainly isn’t is a one-trick pony. Pale Waves were always better than that.