Go soul searching over Wolf Alice’s ambitious ‘Blue Weekend’ 

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

English rock band Wolf Alice has finally reached its latest stop in its evolution of sound. Blue Weekend is a dreamy alternative rock record heavily blotted with folk and pop, and the view here is breathtaking. After nearly three years since its last LP, Visions of a Life, the band has come back with an album that fantastically balances beloved, familiar elements with an unmistakably new style. Blue Weekend is ambitious, covering uncharted territory, but Wolf Alice’s confident execution ensures its vision’s success.

Wolf Alice has long blended the rock, folk and pop genres together to varying degrees, but it’s found a distinctively new way to do this in its latest album. Blue Weekend was teased by the release of three singles, “The Last Man on Earth,” “Smile” and “No Hard Feelings,” which are a good introduction to the album as a whole. “The Last Man on Earth” starts as a soft piano ballad, unusual for Wolf Alice, before transitioning to the new pop-rock sound consistent with the rest of the album. The single itself is one of the album’s all-around strongest songs. “Smile” shares some new elements but is a more “traditional” Wolf Alice song — a harder rock piece dripping with attitude. “No Hard Feelings” revisits the band’s acoustic folk roots, a sound more prevalent in Blue Weekend than in its first two rock-rich albums.

Blue Weekend is notably slower than Visions of a Life or My Love Is Cool, and a standout characteristic of many of its best songs is the band’s use of long, drawn-out notes in both its vocals and instrumentals. This brings out the soul in Joff Oddie’s twangy guitar (an album staple), makes Ellie Rowsell’s vocals downright ethereal and when paired with lots of reverb, melts everything together into flowing music that may just be the auditory representation of pouring molasses. The potential and range of Rowsell’s voice have never been better utilized than in this latest album, made particularly evident by her harmonizations in “Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love)” and “How Can I Make It OK?”

While the guitar and vocals shine in particular, bass and drums are by no means insignificant. The rhythm section adjusts perfectly to the band’s shift in sound, and wonderfully complements and contributes to each song. Theo Ellis’ bass lines are groovier than ever, and Joel Amey’s drumming is soft and mellow, then loud and powerful exactly when it should be. The two move every song along at just the right pace. Notable performances include the bass line in “Delicious Things,” the drums in “Play the Greatest Hits” and both instruments together in “Smile.”

The lyrics of the album resonate more deeply and personally than ever before, with themes exploring nuanced relationships and self-compassion. Blue Weekend feels like one complete story detailing an introspective journey that culminates in acceptance and contentment. Bookended by “The Beach” and “The Beach II,” the album opens describing a state of loss and defeat (“Now I’m lying on the floor … / Like I’m not worth a chair … / I close my eyes and imagine I’m not there”) and ends on a positive note with a refreshing new outlook (“And the sun goes down, as it must come up/ Consistent like the laughter/ … Happy ever after”).

Standout songs on the album include “Delicious Things,” a particularly dreamy narrative song about getting trapped by the enticing, glamorous Hollywood lifestyle; “Lipstick on the Glass,” a raw, authentic folk-rock piece addressing complex attraction and desire; “Feeling Myself,” a tasteful ode to masturbation with booming instrumentals emulating its overarching theme of self-discovery; and the lead single, “The Last Man on Earth,” a ballad contemplating human arrogance that gives Rowsell a glowing opportunity to show off her vocals.

Its latest album is proof that Wolf Alice, refusing to stagnate, has direction and purpose to its evolution. Filled with successful experimentation and sophisticated lyricism and executed with no signs of fear in its pursuit of new developments, Blue Weekend is one colorful trip.

Contact Joy Diamond at [email protected].