ALBUM REVIEW: Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Manchester, indie-pop quartet, Pale Waves, who have gone from extensively touring the States with The 1975 to finding themselves playing festivals all over the world. This is just the beginning for the band, who are set to play some of their biggest shows to date on their upcoming UK tour. Already gaining a cultishly loyal following off the back of the infectious “There’s A Honey“, “Television Romance” and “Noises“, sold out tours, and millions of streams – the band are currently gearing up for widespread dominance with their debut LP. The band have gained quite the reputation for their live shows, jam-packed with beaming fans screaming back every word.

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Pale Waves have never been the type to shy away from what they want to say. Their lyricism has always been transparent and, more often than not, painfully honest. I think it’s safe to say that this is exactly why their music has resonated so strongly with so many people, so quickly. There’s no cutting corners or hidden messages, just shimmering, heartfelt, The Cure-tinged pop that’ll make you wanna dance so hard that you forget you’re crying. Front-woman Heather Baron-Gracie, recently said in an interview at Outside Lands festival that the album is “14 tracks about what goes on in my mind“, giving the impression that it almost serves as a diary for the last 12 months of the band. Music is at it’s most rewarding when the musicians behind it give a piece of themselves to their audience. Full to the brim with deeply personal subject matter, twinkly instrumentation and a mature band sensibility across the board, My Mind Makes Noises is a stellar debut release from the Manchester band.

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My Mind Makes Noises opens boldly with the prior-released hit single, “Eighteen“, a track which has gained lots of airplay on BBC Radio 1 recently.  Peppered with catchy hooks, bumbling synths, bittersweet vocal deliveries and jangly 80s pop guitars – the track is the perfect opener and inclination into what’s to come for the rest of the record. Dark, dreamy and delightful. Despite all the criticism the band get for their drawings of influence from 80s bands such as The Smiths, The Cocteau Twins, The Cure and so on, Pale Waves come as a refreshing breath of air.

Next up we have “There’s A Honey” and “Noises“, the aforementioned being one of the first pieces of music the band put out and one that has became in a landmark in their live set. Bold, bittersweet and anthemic – the two tracks are essential listens, showcasing some of the records greatest vocal displays and portraying the gritty, emotional nature of the band whilst also shining a light on the fun-loving attitudes of its members through the bouncing, synth-led instrumentations. “Noises” sees Baron-Gracie at her most transparent, as the track tackles self-doubt, paranoia and all those juicy bits in-between.

The record takes a slight yet pleasant detour on “Came in Close“, which erupts with glitchy disco synths that transcend into a get-up-and-dance crescendo of a chorus: “Well what if I came in close? To only kiss you or would you say no? Is it really me that you want? Is it really me that you want?” An absolute album highlight for me, this track is super catchy and one to be played loud. It’s here that we really see the band taking the best moments of 80s indie and pop and throwing it all together to make something special. “Loveless Girl” doesn’t sound all that different to the tracks before it and is (sadly) the only track on the LP I’d say I didn’t enjoy.

We see Pale Waves channeling their label-mates/mentors, The 1975, on “Drive” – a powerful, guitar-driven track that cements the Manchester quartet’s place in the indie rock community as one of the best, certain to fill arenas someday. You’ll find yourself bopping your head and chanting “I drive fast so I can feel something” like there’s no tomorrow. The sheer frailty and innocence in Baron-Gracie’s voice leaves no room for irony, it’s crystal clear she means every word she sings – creating an empathic connection with the listener, that is consistent throughout the course of the album.

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(Heather Baron-Gracie / 2018 / by Frances Beach)

The tempo is turned down a notch on “When Did I Lose It All?“, a hazy, emotional number which sees Heather go full pop-princess belting out words of love and devotion. The track twists and turns its way through a heart wrenching conflict of love and loss, climaxing brilliantly with a blistering guitar solo. The following track, “She” ,walks very similar terrain to its predecessor, serving as yet another anthemic, personal cut in the Pale Waves arsenal.

The record hits its peak on “One More Time“, a glistening, fast-paced effort riddled with dreamy guitar work and pulsating percussion. Despite telling tales you may feel like you’ve already heard, the track is a joyful listen that’ll have you pressing that replay button.

Although “Television Romance” is a track we’ve sat with for over a year now, it still sounds great in the context of the record, serving its purpose as another chapter in My Mind Makes Noises. “Red” is a monster of a song, carried by New Order-esque synthesisers and soaring guitars, accompanied beautifully by the sassy remarks of “Oh and I know red’s your favourite colour“.

Both “Kiss” and “Black” intertwine pop perfection with an indie rock edge that makes for one hell of a concoction. These two tracks are easily my favourites on the record, they effortlessly show the versatility of the band and their talent that’s certain to take them to all new heights in the very near future. It’s that tinge of darkness within that really catches my attention here, a sound I’d like to hear more of in future releases.

The record comes to a close with “Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like to Die)“, an ode to Baron-Gracie’s late grandfather. The track is an uncensored look into the mind of Gracie, as she tells us her heartbreaking struggle with death: “I wrote a song for you, it’s called ‘Hide and Seek’, you never heard it but I, I got it tattooed on me” / “Got in the taxi after my London show, and your favourite song came on the radio“. The track is a gut-wrenching listen, the unsubtle nature of the lyricism feels almost conversational – I’d be lying if I were to say I didn’t shed a tear. The raw, unhinged expression of sadness here is really damn admirable.

An emotional explosion to what has been a bold, bittersweet journey of love, death and anxiety – Pale Waves have solidified themselves as one of the countries most exciting new bands.

Painfully honest from front to back and overflowing with youthfulness, My Mind Makes Noises is a wonderfully endearing debut release from a band with plenty more up their sleeves.

8.5/10


 

(all images, videos, music courtesy of Dirty Hit/Pale Waves – unless stated otherwise)

Words by Ben Davies

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