2021 • ROCK/ALTERNATIVE • DIRTY HIT
BEST NEW MUSIC
The London alternative rock band’s latest release is a homogenous amalgamation of songs that can be seen as both a mirror of the band members’ souls and a warm embrace in those who listen to the record. It’s grand, passionate, mind-blowing, and bold.
When Wolf Alice began to work on their third record, Blue Weekend, they struggled to come up with ideas. They had just finished touring their second album, 2017’s Visions of a Life, and realized they didn’t have any songs written. “We didn’t have a filter on any ideas. Any idea was a good idea at that point. And we did everything really haphazardly, but it was just about getting it working again, having a place to convenient, getting ourselves into that atmosphere,” bassist Theo Ellis said in the album announcement. But even so, the London alternative rock band’s latest release is grand, passionate, mind-blowing, and bold.
According to the vocalist Ellie Rowsell, Blue Weekend “is for other people.” She told NME that when she started writing the songs for the album she was thinking about “what songs I can listen to that will be about what I’m feeling right now.” “Sometimes you hear a song and it makes you feel better, or you hear a song and it makes you feel seen,” she completed. And the album is basically that: a homogenous amalgamation of songs that can be seen as both a mirror of the band members’ souls and a warm embrace in those who listen to the record. With a sharp and monumental composition alongside a sublime, timeless, and grandiose sound, Blue Weekend appears not only as the band’s strongest album but as one of the best of the year.
One of Blue Weekend‘s greatest strengths is its spectacular production. Although the album doesn’t seem to have a vast diversity of instruments, it shows that they know how to deal with what they have very well. From more acoustic and calm moments to effervescent shouts, the album, in all its facets, delivers something memorable and timeless. In a few moments, you can see Ellie and the rest of the band on a cloudy beach, or even inside a grandiose cave full of echo or a cabin in the middle of a gray forest. The most amazing thing about this diversity that comes from simplicity is how all the tracks, despite having some sound directions, talk very well with each other, creating a very cohesive, fluid, and captivating record. Look, for example, at the transition between “Smile” and “Safe from Heartbreak (if you never fall in love),” which are clearly different but for some reason seem to naturally belong to the same project.
On the other hand, the composition of the album is also towering. The opener, “The Beach,” for example, features a poem with Ellie confessing her fears to her loved ones. “When will we meet eye to eye?/Are we still friends if I feel afraid?”, she sings. But, much more than just delivering very good lyrics, the song also delivers an interesting instrumental, marked by constant constructions of tension and climax breaks. Later, “Lipstick on the Glass,” also comes with another strong point, mainly because of its chorus that puts Ellie in a position of being passive to her partner who is cheating on her. She sings on the hook, “I take you back/Yeah, I know it seems surprising when there’s lipstick still on the glass/And the full moon rising, but it’s me who makes myself mad/I take you.” She looks lost and takes the listener along with her.
Furthermore, on some tracks, these two factors, which collide very well throughout the album, manage to create an even more potent feeling of catharsis. “Delicious Things,” for example, sounds like a timeless romantic anthem but it’s actually a song about a person who finds himself in the delight of his life and seems at a loss as to which direction to take. “Could I belong here? The vibes are kinda strong here,” she sings. But the icing on the cake comes in the hook, when synthesizers take her melodic voice to a transcendent level. In the end, she confesses, “Feel like I’m falling, dreams slowly stalling.” Afterward, “Safe from Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)” comes out with something softer, almost acoustic and homely, with the vocalist associating the idea that she won’t have a broken heart and won’t suffer if she gives up falling in love, and “How Can I Make It OK?” is the point that represents Ellie’s initial idea for the record, showing her in a conversation with someone who is hurt. She sings worriedly, feeling unable to help someone she loves, “So how can I make it okay?/I just want you to be happy.” Her pain is easily felt here
Later, it’s interesting to analyze how the album also works the empowerment of the album’s vocalist in the most different and unexpected ways. “Smile” is one of the best tracks on the record. Compared to the rest of the album, it’s much more violent, restless, and projected, featuring nice and well-made mind-blowing strings. In this one, Ellie assembles bits of generic phrases that are used to offend women in everyday life, creates near-perfect handwriting, and snarls each word back to her abusers in a feminist scream. She sings, “Don’t call me mad/There’s a difference, I am angry/And your choice to call me cute has offended me/I have power, there are people who depend on me.” However, later on, they dig even deeper into their musings on the track “Feeling Myself,” in which Ellie works on the issue of how her ex couldn’t satisfy her sexually because of a simple inability of straight men. In the end, she discovers that self-pleasure is best. As she sings, “Now I’m really feeling myself,” in the hook, the strings and synthesizers reach a spiritual level, which can be a representation of the orgasm felt in masturbation.
But, the best track on the record is “The Last Man on Earth,” a track that simply leaves you speechless. It starts with a joke and some samples that seem to come out of a children’s song. Ellie’s voice is calm the entire time, as she announces her indignation that can be confused with relief and sadness, “Who were you to ask for anything more?/Do you wait for your dancing lessons to be felt from God?” Over time, the track grows smoothly, becoming more and more powerful, refined, well-produced, and well-written, reaching a monumental level. But the best thing is the lyrics, especially the chorus, where she sings:
And every book you take
And you dust off from the shelf
Has lines between lines between lines
That you read about yourself
But does a light shine on you?
And when your friends are talking
You hardly hear a word
You were the first person here
And the last man on the Earth
But does a light shine on you?
Lastly, while the track “Play the Greatest Hits” is really good, it’s the point outside the curve of the record and is relatively quite unnecessary here. She is influenced by Japanese pop-rock from the 2000s and, despite being good, she can’t connect with the rest of the album. But that doesn’t mess up at all. In the final stretch, Blue Weekend features cool tracks that leave you feeling sweaty but also seem to prepare you for something better in the future. In “No Hard Feelings,” she sings, “But there’s only so much sulking/That the heart can entertain/No hard feelings, honey/Next time you come my way,” and in “The Beach II,” she ends, with her last line being, “My happy ever after/It’s okay.” And when she sings, you believe her.