Words By Dylan Bryant
Following on from the success of their Top 10 debut ‘My Mind Makes Noises’, meeting fans expectations with a new album was never going to be an easy task. Add on the pressures of a global pandemic, a near-fatal bus crash, and having to finish an album under Covid restrictions, the infamous cliché of the ‘difficult second album’ becomes even more true for Pale Waves.
Taking into account these ‘inconveniences’, you’d perhaps have expected Pale Waves new album to be less jubilant than the first. However, ‘Who Am I?’ serves as a symbolic milestone that celebrates personal awakenings and overcoming adversities. In their own words, the band told fans – “We’re so glad it’s finally yours, and hope this album helps you make sense of who you are, the same way it helped us” (source: Instagram).
Self-discovery is a running theme throughout, and the title track is clearly representative of this. An emotive piano sequence is host to painfully honest lyrics, such as “How do I live a life where I don’t feel this low” and “I feel like I’ve got nowhere to go and how am I supposed to cope”. This track shows the diversity in songs that the band has to offer and brings something different to their iconic pop rock sound that they’re known for. However, the more upbeat tracks such as ‘Run To,’ bring the more recognisable sound of the band and nods to their electropop influences.
There’s an element of maturity from the band that comes with ‘Who Am I?’. The collection of 11 songs brings everything from strummy acoustic guitar numbers, dreamy vocals and catchy melodies that are reminiscent of 80’s revival and early 2000’s music which can be explained by lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie’s love of Avril Lavigne. The bands inspiration from this branch of pop – rock definitely shines through on ‘Easy’ and ‘Change’ which serve as two of the standout tracks.
With Baron-Gracie as the lead lyricist; the powerful theme of identity becomes more prominent with the track ‘She’s My Religion’ which sees her using female pronouns in a romantic context for the first time. Having discussed her personal struggles with coming to terms with her sexuality, it’s an important factor in the delivery of the message that this album conveys. The track ‘You Don’t Own Me’ reinforces this self-confidence and serves as an anthem against patriarchy with the lyrics “I don’t need you ’cause I’ll be whoever I want to.”
The journey and process of this album can be felt throughout, and its nostalgic feel of adolescence provides a canvas for understanding comfort and representation. An aim voiced by Baron-Gracie on her social media. (Source: Instagram)