If you have made it this far into 2018 and are unfamiliar with Pale Waves, then that’s nothing short of a miracle. This is a band that exploded onto the music industry in 2017 with their debut single “There’s a Honey” and captivated audiences everywhere. A few short months later the band found themselves opening up for The 1975, and then following that guitarist/vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie was on a cover of NME with The 1975’s Matt Healy.
This is all, of course, before Pale Waves had even released an EP yet. By January of this year, the band had still yet to release an EP — instead only had a collection of four singles out — when they announced their first North American headlining tour. This might seem like a reach, but it was quite the opposite: it was a smashing success, a testament to the excitement and buzz around this band — rounded out by drummer Ciara Doran, guitarist/keyboardist Hugo Silvani, and bassist/keyboardist Charlie Wood — and how their fan base was rapidly growing.
That is, essentially, the cliff notes version of this band’s history. Of course there are tons of amazing details along the way, but it’s time to dive into Pale Waves’ debut album, My Mind Makes Noises — which will be out this Friday, September 14th via Interscope/Dirty Hit Records.
Spoiler alert: It’s good.
My Mind Makes Noises opens with “Eighteen,” which was the track that Pale Waves used to announce the album back in July. Our own Joel Funk, at the time, described the song as Carly Rae Jepsen meets The Cure, and all you have to do is listen to the song once to hear for yourself how accurate that is. It is an all around song that covers the often-talked about story of young love, but the energy behind the song and the mood it sets will make it feel like the first love song you have heard all over again. If Pale Waves wanted to kick off My Mind Makes Noises with a bang, there might be no better song on the album to make that opening statement.
Following the previously released “There’s a Honey” and “Noises,” Pale Waves deliver “Came In Close,” a song with an intro that sounds like a Two Door Cinema Club song spiked with synth, and that is not even close to a bad thing. The song comes out blazing out of the gates, before slowing down to a programmed beat in the first verse. Don’t let it fool you, as the chorus comes blistering back in, lead by Baron-Gracie’s vocals. It won’t take more than one listen until you get the “is it really me that you want, that you want? / is it really me that you want, that you want?” part of the chorus stuck in your head.
While Pale Waves originally got some attention due to The 1975, the band have worked hard to establish themselves as a separate entity. It’s not so much about distancing themselves, as it is creating something for themselves to be able to stand on. However, on My Mind Makes Noises, the track “Loveless Girl” is a song that has a vibe along the lines on The 1975’s “Loving Someone.” Additionally, it seemingly plays some lyrical homage “UGH!” and “Robbers,” while this does not seem to be confirmed anywhere by Pale Waves — merely just an observation made by this one little music writer — they could be nice little Easter eggs for dedicated fans of The 1975 to pick up on.
Pale Waves really shines and breakthrough on My Mind Makes Noises with some of the deeper cuts, or at least tracks that did not wind up singles. “When Did I Lose It All?” is the perfect example of this; a heartbreaking retro sounding ballad that speaks of a love that cannot work out despite a promising start. “I’m letting you go / for now, for now / I wanna marry you / but not now, not now,” Baron-Gracie emphatically sings in the chorus, as someone making a decision or the better, no matter how hard it may be or how much it may hurt in the short run.
The back half of My Mind Makes Noises is where the band shines the brightest. Here you have the band adding the previously released “Television Romance,” “Kiss,” and Black.” All of which are good songs in their own respect. However, I would be doing us all a big disservice by not expressing how good this band is at writing songs that make you want to dance with a massive hook and chorus.
For the best examples of this, I want to direct your attention to “One More Time” and “Red.” Both are anthems about love in their own ways, though different sides of that spectrum. The former shows Pale Waves uses the verses to explain an ended relationship (“Saw you through the window crying on the stairs / I thought you didn’t care? / I just want to pull you close / But there’s walls in between / Can’t we just go back to when we were seventeen?”) before pleading in the chorus for one more shot at working things out (“I just want you one more time / Won’t you give me one last night with you?”). The latter of these two seems to focus more towards the beginning of a relationship, lyrically highlighting the two subjects first meeting to openly pondering if maybe this relationship will work out. During a December 2017 with Billboard, Baron-Gracie expressed her affection for The Cure stating “I love songs that give you melodies that you can sing at any time, but within those melodies, there are things that break your heart.” These songs — “One More Time,” “Red,” and even “Kiss” — are certainly taking some of those influences and Pale Waves adding their own twist to it, executing it masterfully.
Album closer “Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like to Die)” shows an entirely different musical side of Pale Waves. It’s an acoustic number about losing a loved one, presumably a close relative, and Baron-Gracie sets the background early on in the first verse with “I was fourteen / My brother was twenty / When my dad sat me down / And told me you left me / I never listened when they called you crazy / I see so much of you in me lately.” Throughout the song you are wondering who this hauntingly painful song is regarding, and while it does not become abundantly clear, it doesn’t need to be. The song is written so well, and the decision to make it a simple track with an acoustic guitar and powerful vocals make it all the more chilling when Baron-Gracie belts out “I wonder what it’s like to die / Sometimes you cross my mind / Well, that’s a fucking lie cause you’re on my mind all of the time / I wonder what it’s like to die.”
Make no mistake about it: Pale Waves are not here just to be a carbon copy of any bands that have come ahead of them. Their sound, certainly influenced by The Cure and that overall 80’s arena rock sound, is very old-school sounding while also being incredibly modern to where you don’t think they are trying too hard to be something they are not. Pale Waves, and specifically My Mind Makes Noises, is exactly what modern pop needs right now. The only drawback here is that the album suffers from being one or two songs too long at times. This is not because they are bad songs, rather because fourteen songs is a seemingly long album that might drag on at times; especially when six of them have been previously released, and tracks “There’s a Honey” and “Television Romance” being well over a year old. Outside of this, My Mind Makes Noises establishes that Pale Waves are here, they are unique, and they aren’t going away any time soon. Their blend of old-school new wave synth and modern pop is utterly unrivaled, and they won’t let you overlook them here.