‘Who Am I?’ Is the Optimistic and Resilient Return of Pale Waves

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If you had told me in 2018 that I would have to wait three years for the next Pale Waves album, I wouldn't have believed you - but here we are this week celebrating the release of Who Am I?, the band's sophomore record. Fans have been excitedly anticipating the return of the Manchester pop-punk-meets-indie-rock group, and Pale Waves has finally rewarded their patience with 11 new tracks. Though a few of these songs have been released as singles already, Who Am I? is a short but sweet album exploring identity, disillusionment, love, and growing up. Unlike their 2018 debut, My Mind Makes Noises, Pale Waves' second LP sees a change in their style, one that trends more towards upbeat 2000's pop rather than their traditional pop-punk range.

If you've heard a Pale Waves record before, there shouldn't be any huge surprises with Who Am I?. Like their last album, Who Am I? features about a dozen insanely catchy tracks full of sheer optimism that will register as instant ear-candy no matter the listener. Though there are clear stylistic differences between the tracks and their creative approach, altogether the album is reminiscent of what a collaboration between Panic! At the Disco and Britney Spears would have been like in the early 2000's - but in the best way possible. The album's accessibility does not come at the expense of its message however, as Who Am I? is full of authentic and cleverly written pop anthems that address subjects like hegemonic gender roles, struggles with mental health and sexuality, romance, and everything in-between.

Tracks like "Fall to Pieces" detail singer Heather Baron-Gracie navigating a budding relationship during a tough time. She allows herself to be vulnerable even when honestly addressing her own self-doubt, singing "How long ‘til we fall to pieces?" on the song's chorus. Heather's candor is refreshing, especially on tracks like "She's My Religion" when singing about pure love, sexuality, and appreciating both the good and bad in somebody. "You Don't Own Me" is yet another standout moment when Baron-Gracie rejects the gendered expectations of others, delivering lines like "I'd rather pull out my teeth / Than be what you want me to be / I know it’s hard to believe / You don’t own me." Between alternating messages of self-love, resilience, and acceptance, Pale Waves makes a strong positive statement with their newest record - advocating for the rights and respect of those who may have been outcast for who they were.

Through their willingness to explore new topics and sounds, Pale Waves delivered a powerful and accessible album that was definitely worth the wait. Though it may be a minute before fans receive new music from Pale Waves, Who Am I? is certain to satiate their hunger until the time comes. Clocking in at just over half an hour, Who Am I? is the perfect bite-sized project to add to your weekly rotation.

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