Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
London quartet Wolf Alice have achieved a lot with their previous two albums: both went to the top five, and Visions of a Life won the 2018 Mercury Prize. Named after a short story from Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (her magical, subversive anthology of fairytales), the band showed their alternative, feminist credentials immediately in their name. The group formed in 2010 as a duo, and in 2012 bassist Theo Ellis and drummer Joel Amey joined vocalist Ellie Rowsell and guitarist Joff Oddie.
For their third album, they’ve employed producer Markus Dravs, who has worked with Florence + the Machine, Arcade Fire and Coldplay. He creates polished, epic sounds for indie acts looking to the next level of their career. Much of lockdown was spent polishing the record, and the sound design clearly has an ear out for future stadium or festival shows, namely the headline slot at this summer’s Latitude Festival. The tracks have a variety of influences and moods. Standout Delicious Things is a woozy, sleazy bit of storytelling about spending time in LA. On Smile, Rowsell almost raps the verse, full of braggadocio. Play the Greatest Hits is bratty punk, The Waitresses crossed with Offspring, and brings the energy up.
Rowsell’s voice is versatile. On another highlight, Lipstick on the Glass, her delivery is almost operatic at times – Kate Bush mixed with a Blondie-on-Xanax tune. On How Can I Make It OK? she lets the sound stretch out, 80s synths framing a huge vocal. At other moments, Roswell’s voice is cracked, or hushed and seductive.
Epic would be the first word to describe this album. It’s a big, restless sound. Lead single Last Man on Earth, a haunting piano ballad, is suffused with a soaring, sultry melancholy: “Who are you to ask for anything else / The thing you should be asking for is help”.
The highlight is Feeling Myself, a cool, shoe-gazey tune about pleasing oneself (literally). It manages to mix a feminist protest vibe (“He’s had so many lovers / Don’t mean he’s been pleasing anyone / Doesn’t matter about numbers / When it’s breaking news that it takes two to love / I was always taught to give / Give and make it good”) with a lush and intricate melody. The combination of the personal lyrics with the tune feels natural, complex lines perfectly fitting into the music. It encapsulates all that’s spell-binding about the band: a beguiling dark glamour washing over listeners with fierce elegance.
Some tracks are less successful. While the rap-rock chorus of Smile is interesting, the chorus is generic and forgettable. Safe from Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love) is an indie-folk, acoustic guitar track that lacks the lean power of its predecessors.
Overall, the album is powerful, emotional and confident.
Blue Weekend is released on 4th June 2021. For further information or to order the album visit Wolf Alice’s website here.
Watch the video for the single How Can I Make It Ok here: