Pale Waves
My Mind Makes Noises

Pale Waves

Debut albums are tricky. On the one hand, they’re the first real look most people will take at your band. Sure, you’ve released a bunch of singles, maybe even a few EPs, but the actual debut album still seems to end up being where you take all the momentum you’ve had, and make a push to build a fan base around your music. So far, Pale Waves have been doing everything right. They’ve released a variety of songs, they’ve been building some buzz, and they have locked down the style they’re going for. On the other hand, getting a debut album right means finding a collection of songs that can keep those early adopters happy (since they’ve probably overplayed a good portion of your record already) while also building around it a cohesive feeling. My first impressions of Pale Waves’, My Mind Makes Noises, is that they have a lot of really good songs, but I’m not sure they have a really good album.

This is a weird paradox. Throughout this fourteen song album we don’t see a whole lot of variety. There’s an underlying current of sameness that bleeds, sometimes too often, through the collection. And while there are definite standouts like “There’s a Honey” and “She” and “Red” and “Drive,” I often find myself lost while listening to it. Songs blend together a little too much, and I miss a sense of place within the album. This is after maybe six spins with the album, so I hope, in time, I’ll get a better feel for it, but at the moment I can’t help but feel like the album was kinda chopped together from a variety of recording sessions and different ideas. It just has this feel of disjointedness to it. At the same time, there’s a bunch of really strong songs here.

There have been quite a few bands coming up recently that play around with a similar sound. It’s synth pop, but with a little darker tint to it. I find myself more drawn to the sunny side of a band like Fickle Friends during the summer months; however, Pale Waves are able to go to a place emotionally in some of these songs that lends well to the soon to be falling leaves.

Take a song like “She.” The song has a slow a pulsating feel, but it’s the lyrical weight that lands.

Thought we could be so much more than this.
Are you getting off with someone else? Don’t you lie, I can tell.
Does she make you feel as good as I did?

Or the sure to be live favorite, “Drive.” A song that wraps a darker tone around catchy melodies. They make this sound really well. But, that shouldn’t be surprising to fans of the band. They’ve released quite a few songs already and what you get here isn’t drastically different. And maybe that’s part of why my excitement for the album as a whole is more tempered. It comes in at 51 minutes, and that’s a long album, let alone for one that contains songs you’ve already heard. But in that 51 minutes it never really finds a way to differentiate itself during the process. What this leaves us with is little pockets of songs that I really enjoy, and others that I end up drifting away from.

I’m sitting here now flipping through the album. Thinking to myself, oh yeah, “When Did I Lose It All?” is the nice power ballad, that’s a good song. The refrain of “I’m letting you go for now, I wanna marry you, but not now, not now,” works really well. And then hitting “One More Time” and thinking it probably could have been cut. And there’s “Loveless Girl” and “Came in Close” and “Black” that all kind of blend together for me without giving me a distinct feel. They get lost in the sequencing.

I keep coming back to my opening line. Debut albums are tricky. Trying to establish your sound, who you are, and introduce yourself to a whole new group of people while also keeping the fans you’ve already picked up is really hard. When you’ve got a song as good as “There’s a Honey” to build around, that’s a damn good start. And there’s a lot here I really like. However, there are just enough places where I don’t think it works quite as well that makes me wish for some tighter editing. But, to that end, I would still recommend this collection of songs for those looking for another synth-heavy band with the ability to stuck in your head. The album may not be as dynamic as I hoped, but there’s enough here to sink your teeth into for a while.