A lot has happened in the time since Pale Waves released their first album. Despite the various trials and tribulations, one of which including a tour bus crash, the Manchester indie-rockers have proven that nothing can get in the way of creating absolute magic. Consisting of 11 tracks, Who Am I? taps into the beloved, nostalgic sounds of the 2000s, and going through each song helped me feel more like the ideal, cool-older-sister trope commonly found in movies of that era (Kat Stratford, anybody?).
In comparison to 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises, their sophomore album presents a newfound edge that helps listeners unearth a more authentic version of Pale Waves. Now, don’t get me wrong; I absolutely adored their debut record, but it only scratched the surface of what they have to offer. That being said, it’s undeniable that they have begun to grow more into their own, unique sound, and my god, it is completely game-changing.
I honestly wasn’t expecting this sort of switch-up at all. From the moment they released “Change,” I knew we were about to witness a brand new, monumental chapter in their career unfold. With a blissfully catchy track and a visually stunning music video to match, it makes sense why this is the way Pale Waves decided to kick off this new era.
Who Am I?’s dizzyingly romantic second single, “She’s My Religion,” brings forth some much-needed LGBTQ+ representation, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop there. “Tomorrow” beckons those who are struggling with their sexualities to take a deep breath and remember, as the lyrics emphasize, you cannot choose who you fall in love with. Not only that, but it also encourages fans who are grappling with their mental health to stick around and see that the world won’t always have you feeling trapped. It’s a truly gorgeous song that wields an impactful message we all need to be reminded of every once in a while.
Ben, I know that you love a boy
Sexuality isn’t a choice
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong
Won’t you just keep hanging on?
And Kelsi, I know life drags you down
Growing up in a small town
Always the odd one in the crowd
You know I’ll never count you out
This sort of vulnerability seen throughout the record is perhaps one of its most striking features. There’s been a distinct progression in songwriting that opens up more personal discussions, ranging from the intimacy of sex and queer romance (“Wish U Were Here”) to the ever-looming uncertainty that comes with reaching a mental and emotional low (“Who Am I?”). Seeing this newfangled sense of self from lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie, as well as the unapologetic comfortability that has come along with it, is incredibly refreshing. It introduces something notably special into their music, and the novel openness and sincerity found throughout this record have put them on track towards becoming a force to be reckoned with.
In short, Who Am I? is a wildly impressive sophomore album. Honest and bold, this record uncovers a new side of Pale Waves that marks a significant turning point for the band. Every track offers a different story that listeners can relate to and appreciate, and they all form a wonderfully cohesive collection of songs without sounding samey or repetitive. This could very well become a defining record for Pale Waves, and I’m eager to see how well it treats them.