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WPGM Recommends: Pale Waves – Who Am I? (Album Review)

Pale Waves tell you exactly who they are with their follow up album Who Am I? Tackling LGBT, pride, self-discovery and mental health, this album is well worth your time.

A lot of bands these days seem to release a great debut album and never quite seem to be able to follow it up. Pale Waves are definitely not one of those bands. Who Am I? is an absolutely brilliant album and can easily rival their 2018 top ten album My Mind Makes Noises.

The Manchester pop-rockers have switched out their 80’s synth sound for an earlier 2000’s Avril inspired pop-punk sound and it really works for this album. It plays like a coming-of-age movie as it takes on subjects like LGBTQ, mental health and identity of yourself. Basically, who are you?

With a lack of live shows, this might feel like a little less of a triumph, but you can’t really take anything away from these guys considering the current circumstances. Especially as Heather spent a lot of time on the other side of the Atlantic writing whilst the band stayed in the UK.

Also, a lot of the instrumentals and vocal parts were recorded and sent in from each member’s respective bedrooms so its really quite impressive at what a great album we have and that we even have it at all.

There’s a major departure with this album in terms of lyrical content as well. With the first album, a lot of the songs are about a blossoming romance and maybe a cheeky snog whilst on this album we get a much more honest look at these guys.

Heather sings about her relationship with her girlfriend and its refreshing to see this as she came out publicly between the first and second album, whilst Doran announced they are trans/non-binary in a recent Instagram post.

The point of this album is that they are being true to themselves. In the album there are clear signs of anguish, pain and confusion but it’s more of them being who they needed to be rather than how the public sees them. It’s such an honest album we have.

It is also a much more mature album than their first. With a lot of the PG-rated pop we get nowadays, Pale Waves proudly sing about sex and more specifically queer romance. This is seen on “Wish U Were Here”. It pokes fun at romance in the digital age with lyrics like “Sick of touching myself in the dark / I look at pictures of you and I’m getting nothing back”.

“She’s My Religion” is one of the most honest and vulnerable songs the band has produced. Heather specifically used pronouns in this song as she wanted to normalize LGBTQ relationships. The song depicts the dark sides of a person and portrays those sides as unlovable but that’s not true.

To love someone, you love them in their entirety and we hear this through Heather’s smokey vocals, “She’s cold, she’s dark, she’s cynical, she’s forever angry at the world / She’s no angel, but she is my religion”.

However, there is a lot of nostalgia to this album. The band have especially drawn inspiration from Avril Lavigne’s 2002 album Let Go, right down to the artwork but we also get a flavor of Taylor Swift on tracks like “Odd Ones Out” and “Fall To Pieces”, whilst there is a Smashing Pumpkins vibe on “I Just Needed You”.

Some tracks stand out more than others but this is one of those rare albums where no songs are actually bad. All of them have their own admirable features and they’re all enjoyable. It’s a very optimistic album and its inspiring as it is basically telling you to live your life how you want and not to be afraid of judgement or negativity or what others might think.

Pale Waves’ Who Am I? album is out now via Dirty Hit, with standout tracks such as “She’s My Religion”, “Tomorrow” and “You Don’t Own Me”. Stream it below and purchase it via PaleWaves.co.uk.

Words by Louis Suffill

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