Album of the Week: Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend (2021 LP)

Wolf Alice

On the back of the world-beating and completely dominant Visions of a Life, Wolf Alice were always bound to make another great album; we just didn’t know if it was going to be straight away or in a couple of albums time. I’m here to say their new album, Blue Weekend is that next great album.

Built on a steady diet of grunge and angst with hints of glistening pop, Wolf Alice’s sound has progressed incrementally since releasing My Love is Cool in 2015. At the time, the English band could have ended up just like any other great-white-hope of the English press: a couple of miraculous breakthrough singles, followed by a well-received debut and then years of mediocrity with the odd catchy single. This was never going to happen to Wolf Alice.

Always a little shy and seemingly reluctant of their fame, the four-piece from London have an uncanny ability to make undeniable and thoroughly complete music. Slowly moving away from being reluctant celebrities, there is a new and assured sound on Blue Weekend that has obviously left the band well-placed for success on this album cycle and for many to come.

Acting as the first taste of the new album, lead single “The Last Man on Earth” was a surprising choice to welcome in the listeners to Blue Weekend. Commencing as a subtle piano track founded purely by frontwoman Ellie Rowsell‘s vocals, “Last Man on the Earth” comes into its own over the closing half, with calming percussion and a little bit of an ELO vibe throughout its bridge. While it is a surprising choice, when listening to the remainder of the album, it’s an educated and wise choice.

The album opens up with “The Beach”, a slow builder that relies on minimal instrumentation in its opening verses and choruses, with the layered vocals of Rowsell proving to be the key ingredient once again. The two and a half minute run time feels like the only betraying moment of the song, as the song ends abruptly just as it begins to take off. Much like their earlier albums, Blue Weekend isn’t afraid of mixing it up stylistically, as “Smile” goes full-blown grunge with some minor raps skills shown by Rowsell. The distorted guitar is key to the track, and is probably the dirtiest moment on the album while still having the unmistakable Wolf Alice sound you’ve come to know and love over the six or so years.

While there are heavier moments on Blue Weekend like “Smile” and the rapid/ aggressive “Play the Greatest Hits” (this will be a killer one-two with an earlier track like “Yuk Foo”), Wolf Alice does everything right on the slower, more angelic tracks on the album. The reflective and honest “Safe from Heartbreak if you never fall in love”, with an almost hymnal vocal delivery, is an always relatable near acoustic number that will fit well as a final goodbye to the crowd once gigs are back for good.

Similarly to “Safe from Heartbreak…”, “No Hard Feelings” is another slow mover that plucks away at the heartstrings while delivering an understated jab to the ribs of the song’s antagonist. It really is a pretty moment that I’m sure will become a sentimental fan favourite.

If there’s anything that does let Blue Weekend down ever so slightly, it is the lack of those instantly catchy songs that stood out so clearly on their previous albums (think songs like “Bros”, “Space & Time” or “You’re a Germ”). In saying that, it isn’t necessary that Blue Weekend requires these types of tracks to succeed.

On the whole, and without knowing the band, Blue Weekend feels like it is the epitome of Wolf Alice; an album the band will look back on when it’s all said and done and be the most proud of. There’s an overwhelming slickness to the album that didn’t appear on their earlier releases that evidently will help differentiate Blue Weekend down the line.

Blue Weekend feels like a culmination of everything Wolf Alice has learnt about themselves and the industry since releasing Visions of a Life. It’s a new age for the band and one that looks as promising as the band could hope.

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Blue Weekend is out Friday 4 June.