This album started within an odd soundscape. Not a bad one. As much as we know of the 4-piece from London, Wolf Alice has always been known as an alternative-rock-pop outfit. Naturally one expects the debut album, My Love is Cool, to sound as such.
When ‘Turn to Dust’ started to take control of my headphones, I was a little unprepared for the rhythmic elements of the track. The style of melodic construction that such Australian acts as The Orbweavers specialize In. That gypsy folk hero of the apocalyptic b-grade indie film. Hopefully, that is not too obscure of a reference.But the track was enjoyable while it was surprising, it broke any expectations I had of the album heading into it, thus my artistic palette was completely open to trying new things – these guys aren’t wanting to be pigeonholed in the ‘popular rock’ rack at JB Hi-Fi and their creative direction is proof they know a few ways of avoiding that.
By this point, most of the Australian music community are familiar with the re-recorded single off the album, and the second track off the top end, ‘Bros’. Quite bluntly, I think it’s arguably one of the best songs released over the last 5 years. Although released originally in 2013, I’m very happy they re-mastered it for My Love is Cool. It not only has all the constructive elements harmoniously in sync with each other, it also has with it all the correct light and shade to give our goosebumps a tough time. Look at when the track falls into the bridge at 2:10 – it’s a soft switch. The vocals faintly ring over with ‘tell you all the time,’ subtly reminding the listener of how they should be feeling within this moment, building an emotional tension that is released when the guitars hit back at 3:00. It’s not too heavy either, that’s what I really admire about Wolf Alice, they never try to escape from any pop sensibilities, instead they embrace them when they need to.
The crew tended to get a little darker throughout – embracing the cat cry vocals of the fem-punk traditions. In the former, the chorus hits the listener hard in penultimate explosions – Ellie Rowsell is almost screaming at you. It’s honest and a rough show of frustration, but it’s still conscious off the riffs that can accentuate the line. The latter is as grotesquely honest as the imagery of the title suggests, but it uses an element within the melody that strikes a very warm chord in my heart, silence. Not doing anything at all! When a band utilizes silence so blatantly in the line of the rhythm section, it wakes me up and grabs the attention of any listener. It’s a beauty of a track.
As each track passes, one starts to think – when are they going to slip up? You almost want to hear a bad track so it diffuses the theory that the album is perfect. From ‘Turn to Dust’ through to ‘Freazy’, it was a 7-track ride of sweet tunes and golden vibes. There isn’t a harshness to the lead vocals, instead there is a beautiful relationship between the tones of Rowsell’s voice and the thick of a busy guitar section (Joff Oddie and Theo Ellis). At one point she’s soft and unsuspecting, another time she’s quirky and fun, and in another moment she’s rough and angry. Important to mention is ‘Silk,’ which sought to be a bit of a story of a song, adding unsuspected melodic intervals that completely threw the soft intimate phrases into new tonal regions.
You also begin to notice a certain style in their songwriting after hearing the album, perhaps the secret to their formula. They tend to utilize on short phrases within the verse structure, with the end of each phrase ending on a similar short accent. The little pattern tends to follow the same melodic makeup and often works to accentuate the consonants of a word to inflect on the rhythm. It’s a standardized format as well, with the exception of ‘Lisbon,’ there tends to be a structural guide they follow (v1, c, v2, c, bridge, c), but they expand on that with quirky motifs, and a strong understanding of vowels and rhythm section to pull an emotional response. I think this four-piece believe in art for the sake of art, music for the sake of music, a journey for the sake of a journey. That’s what the album is. The track listing emulates a growth or a maturing of emotion. Each track deepens the band’s repertoire and I had a blast listening to it.
‘My Love is Cool’ was released 22nd of June, through Dirty Hit Records