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[Album Review] Pale Waves – All The Things I Never Said EP

Formed in 2014, Pale Waves are a Manchester indie pop quartet that, since releasing their critically acclaimed 2017 debut singles, ‘There’s a Honey’, and ‘Television Romance’, have been making it big, and making it very quickly. In fact, despite until very recently being relatively under the radar, Pale Waves are probably one of the most rapidly successful new indie artists of the last year, supporting fellow Dirty Hit label-mates, The 1975, throughout a headlining European and North American tour, from late 2017 through to the early months of 2018, and garnering a rapidly growing dedicated following along the way. What’s even more impressive is this success being in spite of a complete lack of actual released material; taking into account a few early demos, and the aforementioned debut singles since being signed to Dirty Hit, the band had barely released a recognisably coherent body of work, let alone a full length album, only having just recently released debut 2018 EP, All The Things I Never Said.

At just four tracks length, All The Things I Never Said offers exactly what was needed for those not yet having stumbled upon the quartet’s dreamy, synth pop love letter to all things that made 80s music so recognisably… well, 80s. With lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie’s own admittance towards holding a deeply rooted affection for the likes of Prince and Madonna, and All The Things I Never Said’s introductory ‘New Year’s Eve’, if it wasn’t already evident where Pale Waves draw their influences, this is going to be the EP that fixes that for you. Treading familiar stylistic territory to both artists of old, and the likes of Taylor Swift’s 1989, and Paramore’s After Laughter, ‘New Year’s Eve’ swiftly kicks the EP off with swells of gorgeous synthesizers and a bouncy, delay-infected staccato guitar riff. Vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie, for all intents and purposes takes centre stage, but there’s very little hubris in her sweetly delivered inoffensive reflections on potential personal relationships, instead channelling the emotion of the lyrical content more with the grace of youthful innocence; “I don’t wanna be alone on New Year’s Eve – do you even wanna be with me?”

Following track, ‘The Tide’ proceeds with similar direction, indulging in strikingly similar stylistic elements to label-mates, The 1975, and polished pop soundscapes that would make Cyndi Lauper proud. It stands as arguably the best track of All The Things I Never Said, ‘The Tide’s most obvious strength once again being Baron-Gracie’s beautifully delivered vocal performance. Paired alongside dream pop synths and vibrant electric and bass guitar work, an undeniably enthralling chorus steers the track wonderfully forward; “I’ll be the sea honey – always, always. And you be the tide.”

‘My Obsession’ brings things back a little, into more downtempo territory; ethereal synthesizers drift hazily throughout the track, while finger snaps and fuzzy guitar leads happily pop up here and there, before ‘My Obsession’ peaks into gorgeous clean guitar arpeggios, and massive reverb-soaked Ciara Doran drum work, that smashes through the final minute of the track wonderfully.

Ultimately, it’s incredibly hard not to like Pale Waves – at it’s very core, it’s all so ridiculously harmless synth pop, that simply begs you to enjoy it. There’s certainly a very evident reliance on influences from both days long gone by, and more contemporary examples of artists exploring similar territory, but these influences are all channelled in such an effectively charming manner that it’s hard to consider it anything more than a simple element of Pale Waves repertoire. While the band’s identity is heavily influenced by the styles and sounds of the 80s, the band does at least attempt to embellish their own identity throughout the EP, with concluding track, ‘Heavenly’, perhaps being the best example of this; relying less on the influences of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, the track instead branches into a few more modern elements, peaking gorgeously in a short, but sweet, guitar solo towards the end. Despite any reservations one might have about the style of music throughout the EP, it can’t be denied that it works very effectively, All The Things I Never Said being a smoothly finished, well produced insight into all that makes Pale Waves so entrancing to behold.

M. Stoneman

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