I first heard Wolf Alice when the video for Don’t Delete The Kisses was recommended to me on YouTube a fair few years ago. Since then, the song has been a staple of all of my Spotify playlists. I loved the dreamy production, the minimalism and the vocal layering. Ellie Rowsell’s soft, gentle voice drew me in. The way she uttered her words mesmerised me. And their latest offering ‘Blue Weekend’ is no exception, providing everything I loved about the group and so much more. The album is interesting for a range of reasons. Particularly in it’s array of production influences, but also for its’ visual aspect. Every single song on the record is to be released with an individual music video. With this, we’ll also get a ‘Blue Weekend’ short film, aiding the masterpiece that is the record.
Simple guitar opens The Beach. An expertly constructed slow-burner, the bareness of the introduction only lasts so long. The first half keeps your interest as you feel the song grow and drop back down, hinting at what is yet to come. But, when it really starts to grow, you don’t just hear it, you feel it. This was first teased at the end of the first chorus, demonstrating restraint and promise. The harmonies are completely enchanting, detailing feeling sadness repeating the same parties with the same people. “When will we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, in rain” she opens, referencing the first few lines of William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ as spoken by the three witches. The song goes on the sadness of being with the same friends yet feeling disconnected from them, drinking with the same people every week. There seems to be a rift in the group. The drums begin to grow with the rest of the song, before it stops abruptly, but exactly where you need it to.
1960’s style harmonies open Dangerous Things, the highlight of the album for me. The vocal layering sounds like something straight out of Grease combined with the same kind of vocal timbre you’d hear from Melanie Safka. The song has a real laid-back, surf-y indie-rock sound. Delicate and vintage sounding, the song pertains a certain nostalgia. It is fitting for the night out she sings about. It has an inviting and almost sinister underlying sound. Everything is cool and good and fun, but also kind of dangerous. “I won’t say no, I”ll give it a go”.
A classic ’70s sounding guitar opens Lipstick On The Glass. Rowsell’s voice is high-pitched and enticing. It drops to a more mid-range register as the chorus hits and the instrumentation widens, an uncommon trait to most popular songs. “I take you back. Oh, I know it’s surprising when there’s lipstick’s still on the glass” she sings about forgiving a lover even though there is evidence of them recently being with somebody else. “My body does deceive me, just as did yours” she sings, implying infidelity. Smile uses heavier more 90’s grunge-inspired instrumentation. The kind of guitar sound you would hear in an action movie when the heroes are getting ready for battle. Or when you see a sexually powerful woman working her magic at a bar. “Don’t call me mad, there’s a difference, I am angry. And your choice to call me cute has offended me” The song details the everyday anger of a woman constantly belittled for simply being female. Using ‘smile’ as the central theme, the song is a slap back at everyday sexism.
Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love) pertains the similar vintage production style. The harmonies are beautifully constructed, even as she yells un-pretty things like “you fucked with my feelings”. “I ain’t a plaything to make life exciting” she sings about a lover who used her. The song has a very sad undertone as much as it comes across as a kind of mantra. How Can I Make It Ok? opens with a very lo-fi indie-pop style synth. The song details pushing someone to take a leap towards some kind of change they’re own fears and anxieties are holding back from. The chorus has a very 80’s pop drum beat and vocal arrangement. A larger than life song about wanting to help somebody, it is as impressive lyrically as it is sonically. It reminds me of the musical style and sound of HAIM. “To live in fear is not to live at all”.
Play The Greatest Hits is reminiscent of the Riot Grrrl era of punk music. The kind of track you’d hear in a 90s or early 2000s cult classic film. Or in a battle in Scott Pilgrim. An unexpected yet inviting twist in the record. “The taste of someone’s lips. their hands placed on my hips, swaying in the kitchen to all the greatest hits” she sings about an intimate moment at a house party. “He’s had so many lovers. Don’t mean he’s pleasing anyone” opens Feeling Myself. A song both about feeling good about yourself without any outside influence and literally feeling yourself, it is about moving on as much as it is about not needing anybody else for pleasure. The keys have an almost identical feel, sound and rhythm to The Zombie’s She’s Not There, continuing the overall nostalgic sound and feel of the album’s production.
The Last Man On Earth is slower than the previous tracks. It details the arrogance of people expecting for good things and opportunities to come to them but without putting the work in. “You’d like a light to shine on you” she sings about the inherent selfishness of people. And about people who long to be the main character of everyone else’s narrative.
“And every book you take that you dust off of 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 Earth. But does a light shine on you?“
She sings, demonstrating these traits perfectly. “Who are you to ask for anything else?”. The instrumentation evolves into a very 70’s baroque inspired rock break, much like that of Queen or Electric Light Orchestra, adding more era-homage’s onto the record.
Detailing the bittersweet aftermath of a heartbreak, No Hard Feelings is an oddly optimistic song about a relationship ending. It recognises that things are still hard, as Rowsell recalls crying in the bathtub to Amy Winehouse’s Love is a Losing Game, yet understanding that the relationship needed to end. “Life can be short but life can be sweet”. “And for everything that ends, something else must begin. No hard feelings honey, and we both will take the win”. The Beach II ends the album. Circling back in a similar setting to the similarly named opening track yet without the sadness, it closes the record’s overall themes. It celebrates close female friendships. Detailing partying and drinking wine by the ocean’s shore she sings:
“And the sun goes down as it must come up, consistent as the laughter of the girls on the beach, my girls on the beach. Happy ever after”.
And happily ever after is exactly how it finishes. ‘Blue Weekend’ is inherently a human record. There is something in it for everybody, whether it be from the album’s themes or the production style. Reminiscing and depicting the ‘blue’ side of human connectivity, whether it be friendship fallouts or relationships ending, the album pertains an underlying message of hope. Things will be bad, but they also will get better. And this record can act as the Winehouse song in the bath tub you listen to when they’re not quite there yet.
‘Blue Weekend’ is available now on all platforms
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With thanks to Liberator Music + Mushroom Group