Pale Waves released their sophomore album, Who Am I? on February 12th 2021 to my great excitement.
I’d been a fan ever since I came across their music video on YouTube for Television Romance. I thought, wow! Goth is back! – my disappointment was only brief as I really enjoyed the jarring confusion of the aesthetic matched with the sound of the band. The debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, released in 2018 is a gorgeously produced album (with help of The 1975, big fans and collaborators of), however I was excited to see if Pale Waves would stick to that ethereal, 80s-synth influenced, sound or would they develop their own? and boy did they!
In February I attended Halsey’s Manic Tour in Amsterdam, excited to also catch the support, none other than Pale Waves. I felt so almost protective of them, not that they hadn’t already achieved success, welcomes to the Netherlands many times before this, but playing the huge Ziggo Dome supporting the global superstar that is…Halsey…I just wanted everyone to love them, and actually they went down amazingly and friends I was with enjoyed their set. They delivered a brilliant collection of songs from their debut album and the ever posed Heather Baron Gracie interacted with the crowd excellently.
The new album marks many changes in the the band’s ‘brand’ in that it’s now focused on representing the LGBTQIA community. Drummer Ciara now identifies as non-binary and Heather Baron Gracie is now openly discussing her queer sexuality. The band have spoken in interviews about how the pandemic has allowed introspective time to realise their identities and how they wish to speak for the voiceless and be the heroes they didn’t feel they had growing up.
Through a pop-punk veil, Who Am I? journey’s through the emotions of millennials, including; love, loss, heartbreak, identity, gender and society. This album sounds much more realized to me, than their debut album (although that was an outstanding introduction). The result is a focused body of work that, not unlike their debut, delves into the human experience but really digs deep, leaving frontwoman, Heather’s soul laid bare. She’s My Religion presents an authentic same-sex relationship, not stylized or romanticized, which is something Heather aimed for, commenting in an interview that straight people doing this in an experimental way can be detrimental to the community. This is such a pure element of the album that elevates the power of gender identity.
The album is a love affair with tumultuous relationships. An ode to the duality of pain and happiness in love.
Songs like Wish U Were Here and Odd Ones Out purely present the reality of loving someone purely and lyrically explore the sentiments we all feel like saying, but sometimes not knowing how to say it. I love that the album closes with the title track, an open question, Who Am I? ‘ where mental health is explored. Sonically, the song utilises pop punk elements in the upbeat drums and strong head voice mixed with almost spoken singing when Heather says,
‘life is going well, except my mental health’.
This is one of the most exciting albums so far this year and i’m even more excited to see where Pale Waves go next with their founded voice for the under represented LGBTQ community in indie pop music.