After a string of sell-out shows, Manchester quartet Pale Waves have finally released their debut album. The pop-focused My Mind Makes Noises sends electricity through the dizzy highs and destructive lows of love, teenage angst, and eventful night-time escapades.
“I finally felt like I could feel for the first time.”
The album opens with the wonderful Eighteen, a synth-driven celebration of love’s rushing magic. It is a tantalising treat for the senses, with lyrics such as “I finally felt like I could feel for the first time.” Here, the band illuminates the track’s giddy love with the vintage synths and that running guitar. The exhilarating sensation continues in Kiss, which carries with it an excitable desire that comes alive with punching drums, dreamy synths, and accelerating riffs by Pale Waves’ guitarist Hugo Silvani and bassist Charlie Wood.
On a slightly more troubled note, Came in Close presents the pairing of dreamy romance and the unavoidable realisation that it will end. With the help of jovial synths and drum patterns, the track’s pacing tempo allows the listener to follow these rushing emotions. This exhibition proves Pale Waves’ ability to simplify complicated emotions and translate it well into an appealing pop song.
Now, this is where that classic pairing of teenage angst and general helplessness comes in. Well, where would pop-punk be without it? Drive is one of the more pop-rock tracks, which gleams with its fuzzy guitar riffs. Here, Heather Boran-Gracie explores the song’s story of angst and gradual self-destruction. The protagonist feels unable to stop herself going to such lengths, even when she’s putting her relationships at risk. This stomping electropop track says it’s okay with not being okay.
“But I’m not sure if you want me.”
The feeling of helplessness and impending destruction continues with There’s a Honey, a revamp of their debut single. Here, she knows she’s being destructive and selfish, but she “can’t help it” as her relationship crumbles in her hands. She then doubts her partner’s investment in the relationship with “I would give you my body/But I’m not sure that you want me.” Great guitar riffs and a general sense of dizziness pulsate throughout, and Heather wonderfully uses pitch to express the yo-yo emotions felt within the chaos. In addition, ‘There’s a Honey’ sounds a lot like The 1975 in terms of its vocal tempo and vibe. They are Pale Waves’ mentor mates after all.
“You don’t love us anymore, but I do.”
The heartbreak and The 1975 influences appear again in Black, which has an anthemic vibe. This time round, the band explores the inability to let go of a failed relationship. That relatable feeling is lifted by dramatic lyrics such as “I feel like I’m having a heart attack,” as well as heartbreakingly frank thoughts such as “You don’t love us anymore, but I do.” Its chorus gleams with rip-roaring rock, before reverting back into the stripped-back soundscape (with its wandering high hats) and reverberated vocals.
The pop chorus and bouncy vocals return in the late 80s-esque Television Romance. Here, she crushes an unattainable dream by rejecting one’s advances. “You and I haven’t got it, got it” admits the persistent chorus. On the other hand, One More Time explores the protagonist’s desperation for her relationship to return to a simpler time. With similar synth rhythms to those of Depeche Mode and Erasure, Pale Waves decode the emotional turmoil on both sides of a break-up. This is especially seen here: “Saw you through the window crying on the stairs/I thought you didn’t care.” The chorus is so catchy here and makes this track very addictive.
“I know it’s not right, but you can’t fix me this time.”
Noises is one of the album’s best tracks. As a self-aware reflection on love, the protagonist is looking at the emotional mess that is herself. This leaves her admitting she needs help. Yet, it is a help that that is rejected for a preference for chaos. “I’m falling, I’m crawling on the floor at night/I know it’s not right, but you can’t fix me this time.” Then, Heather lyrically places herself into the second verse: “Heather, you’re stupid…And the faces that you love are slowly giving up.” Musically the synths shine here, with Heather shedding a light on the interior chaos of the protagonist. You can see why a few write-ups have compared her with the late The Cranberries singer, Dolores O’Riordan.
When Did I Lose It All? presents heartbreak in its most depressing and blistering form. Despite being spoiled with excellent vocals by Heather Baron-Gracie thus far, some of the best arrive here. Dreams are crushed (“Thought we’d love and grow old together”) and desperation for happier times erupts (“let’s have our moment”). Essentially a song about letting go of something which you wanted forever, the twinkling keyboard melodies and ballad drums help the interchanging of vulnerability and agency. The expression of pain shines again in the closing track Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like to Die), which sees Heather pondering death and the loss of her grandad.
Pale Waves’ sound is rather similar to that of mentors The 1975. Yet, the band have certainly had a roaring start with their tour successes and they now have a catchy album to their name. Yes, releasing what is essentially a pop record has denied Pale Waves an association with musically-rustic indie beginnings. However, their pre-album rise and profile as one of the most talked-about newcomers should help them to pass this. My Mind Makes Noises had set a solid platform for Heather Baron-Gracie, who has a voice that many will love for years to come.
Picks: Noises, One More Time, Eighteen, and When Did I Lose It All?
Check out My Mind Makes Noises here.
From Sophia with Love x