The best of what Pale Waves have to offer
Lana Williams
11:03 8th August 2022

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Soundtracking teenage years and acting as the gateway drug between indie and emo-pop, four piece Pale Waves rapidly caught media attention before being plucked from the scene and mentored by alt-veteran Matt Healy. Releasing their debut LP My Mind Makes Noises in 2018, succeeded by 2021’s Who Am I?, the quartet’s third record announcement, Unwanted, came with ample high expectations.

Setting their motivations clear from the offset, Unwanted weaves through self-discovery in a thematically honest and raw deep-dive into the mind of frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie. Dabbling in narratives of love, loss, and everything in between, poetic lyricism and clever songwriting highlight heartache wrapped in the package of crunchy ‘90s rock and dynamic soundscapes. 

Sitting at a hearty thirteen tracks long, the album moves through the heart-wrenching pain of ‘The Hard Way’ to the more delicate intonations of ‘Alone’, before amalgamating in the pop-punk paradise of ‘You’re So Vain’. Preceded by a handful of single releases (most notable among them the funky ‘Lies’, and biting earworm ‘Jealousy’), Pale Waves had their work cut out for them. 

Opening number ‘Lies’ shines through groovy basslines and sits in the same vein as Halsey numbers, where ‘Jealousy’ boasts The Pretty Reckless influences and the melody-heavy ‘Unwanted’ wouldn’t be out of place on an early Avril Lavigne record. Stand-out cut ‘Clean’ impresses with Baron-Gracies spectacular vocal range, in a softer more melodic approach to American pop-punk. ‘Without You’ takes its place as the ballad on the record (alongside ‘Numb’), featuring stripped-back guitar lines that allow vocal harmonies to take the limelight as a narrative of heartache and loss is painted (“I guess I’ll learn to carry on without you”). 

Unwanted hits its apex in the sultry basslines and vocals found buried deep within the second half of the record, with pop-punk finding its home in the crunchy instrumentation of ‘You’re So Vain’. Similarly, penultimate number, ‘Act Your Age’ features the album’s now-staple robust percussion and string sections that pave the way for the lead vocals to shine in a burst of effervescence and undeniable energy. 

Flirting with romanticism and vulnerability, Unwanted encompasses the best of what Pale Waves have to offer: an in-your-face, unapologetic exploration of emotions and the human psyche. Their musical foray so far has led the band to a place of maturity and warranted success that is sure to follow for years to come.

Unwanted arrives 12 August via Dirty Hit.

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Photo: Press