Palace – Shoals
London’s own, blues-inspired indie troupe Palace are back with their first full-length record since 2019’s Life After, taking aim at feelings of fear and the human condition in melancholic third album Shoals.
The heartfelt piano-driven opener, Never Said It Was Easy, with reverberating keys and floaty vocals, firmly establishes the tone of this new direction: ambient, sonic melodies that must have been recorded in some subterranean chamber, driven by intent and clear thematic purpose, both lyrically and compositionally. Ideas of paranoia, anxiety and existential fear are addressed throughout, and each track weaves these themes effortlessly in the early stages of the album in tracks like Shame on You and the guitar-fuelled Fade.
One area where this record stands tall is in its lyrics, and this is a significant marker in Palace’s career as Leo Wyndham delivers some of his most open and honest writing to date. The standout track, Gravity, a melancholic contemplation on feelings of detachment from the world we live in, is evidence of what Palace can achieve with Wyndham’s direction. It’s a poetic, poignant and compositionally diverse track with lyrics penned with a feeling of real vulnerability, and it stands as one of the most instrumentally interesting tracks on the album, opening with a woozy electronic beat that perfectly pairs up with the narrative themes of languishing in a detached society.
Later tracks such as Give Me the Rain (a tune that harks back to the heyday of British indie guitar bands long past) and Lover (Don’t Let Me Down) are emotive and heartfelt, with the choral cry of Wyndham’s vocals backed by the cathedral echo of tumbling guitar lines providing the backbone of these later entries.
However, by the time listeners reach the closing tracks, notably – Salt and Where Sky Becomes Sea – the album has begun to run out of steam; the clear momentum stacked predominantly in the opening tracks is no longer the driving force it once was, and it all begins to feel a bit familiar.
Despite this, Shoals can confidently stand as Palace’s best release yet. It’s somewhere in the realm of Alt-J meets Fleet Foxes, a purposeful British indie that melds soft vocals and shimmery instrumentals to create an ethereal, dreamlike experience that, at its core, is a thematically driven album that feels wholly immersive. It’s a departure from the positivity of their previous albums, but as it was birthed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and recorded in the isolation of lockdown, can it be any wonder that Palace’s latest record lingers so long in the dark?
Shoals is released on 21st January 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Palace’s website here.
Watch the video for Gravity here: