Pale Waves are back with their sophomore release Who Am I?, the successor to 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises. It’s a more complex album than their debut: both thematically and sonically, with mature lyrics (concerning the deconstruction of identity amongst other ideas) and more prominent guitars.
Noticeably on the album, Heather Baron-Gracie’s vocals have a greater presence and synergise with the instrumentals exceptionally well. This production quality is a definite improvement from My Mind Makes Noises, and boosts Gracie’s vocals, strengthening their ethereality and power.
Overall, the songs range from good to great, with a few exceptions that stand out from the rest.
The opener ‘Change’ does little to progress the band’s sound but remains a worthy indie-pop anthem. The next song in the album, ‘Fall to Pieces’, is more of a diversion from their past sound, opening with an acoustic guitar riff before building into a crescendo at the chorus with powerful instrumentals.
‘She’s My Religion’ is the standout single from the album, a beautiful personal expression of love which utilises the sounds of gothic rock alongside indie-pop structures and anthemic choruses.
The third single ‘Easy’ is in the same vein as ‘Change’, though unfortunately, it falls flat amongst the rest of the album with its repetitive bridges and choruses and lacklustre beat.
Another highlight though is ‘You Don’t Own Me’, where the fast-choral flow, maintained by the drumming of Ciara Doran, and empowering lyrics make for an interesting composition.
‘Run To’ is perhaps the most genre-fluid song on the album, as it bridges pop-punk and indie-pop effortlessly. Its verse-bridge-chorus transitions are also flawless and retain pace throughout. Its post-chorus lyrics “Life is going well, except my mental health” juxtaposed with upbeat vocalisations give the song a bittersweet feel.
The closer and title track ‘Who Am I?’ is a piano ballad which lacks the urgency of other tracks on the album but successfully oozes the frenetic energy, whilst offering a level of introspection not seen on any of the others.
Overall, Pale Waves’ second album is a definite improvement from their first, both in intricacy, production quality, and maturity. Saying this, it doesn’t do quite as much as it could to progress their sound, although where it does it truly shines.