Album Review: Wolf Alice deliver a pared back, emotive triumph on new album ‘Blue Weekend’

Songs that are a flickering light to be seen by

The Breakdown

Independent 9.0

Wolf Alice excel at making songs that feel like a flickering light to be seen by. They have a gift for conveying cathartic musical tales of love and disillusionment- largely the product of singer Ellie Rowsell’s confessional lyricism and evocative vocals. On new album Blue Weekend we can hear not only Rowsell’s evolution as a songwriter, but also a new maturity of the group as a triumphant, self-assured whole.

Unsurprisingly, love is the album’s main theme – discovering it, losing it, the strength and bewilderment of it. This is a collection of recognisable Wolf Alice songs, recognisable by Rowsell’s hauntingly pragmatic vocal style coupled with heartbreaking chord progressions, such as on track Delicious Things. The sultry acoustic guitar and Kate Bush-esque vocals of Lipstick on the Glass lead perfectly into the alt-rock, amped-up gut punch delivered by Smile.

Musically, Blue Weekend delivers a new simplicity and strength of confidence in its songs, including perfectly layered acoustics meant for soothing a reflective soul. True feelings are captured here with lyrics and expression first, beautifully uncomplicated arrangements a very close second.

Feeling Myself’s strong, sexual undertones are satisfyingly brought to the surface on the wave of climactic keys and lyrics of voyeurism, whilst lead single and outstanding personal favourite The Last Man on Earth casts a spell with emotive piano and haunting choral refrain, asking in a whisper:  Does a light shine on you?

“When you’re younger you think ‘I need to prove to people that I know all the chords and my structures are whacky! And then when you’re older you think ‘I just want to write a song that I would have at my funeral’.” – Ellie Rowsell

Previously, the band have incorporated different musical styles into their work, from shoegaze to grunge to synth-pop. Despite this, Blue Weekend has a definite Wolf Alice sound. Musically it is simple and more stripped back than their usual offerings. Produced by Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Bjork, Mumford & Sons), the band’s more refined approach and reinforced identity as a group is absolutely apparent on the album.

Over a decade ago Wolf Alice came onto the scene as a duo comprising Ellie Rowsell and guitarist Joff Oddie, later expanding to a four-piece including drummer Joel Amey and bassist Theo Ellis. Their magnetic music and lyrics told tales of youth, young womanhood, desire, rage and joy. Debut album My Love Is Cool reached #2 in the UK album charts, also receiving a Grammy nomination for track Moaning Lisa Smile. Their successive album, Visions of a Life, won the 2018 Mercury Prize. The band have toured globally and provided support to Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and Liam Gallagher. Wolf Alice were also the subject of a film by revered director Michael Winterbottom.

The newfound confidence Wolf Alice show on Blue Weekend will undoubtedly strengthen the bond with an unwavering audience who have watched them grow. And this record is an example of a band at its peak.

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