Pre-order Wolf Alice's anticipated new LP on limited, transparent green vinyl from our store.
Embarking on my first full listen of Wolf Alice’s latest full-length album, Blue Weekend (coming Friday, June 4 via Dirty Hit/RCA), it felt like every muscle in my body was tensed up. While attempting to sum up my thoughts about the record on paper, I listened to it at least a dozen times, writing down small notes here and there but, ultimately, getting lost in the music every time. The trance I surrendered to is directly emblematic of the power of a band like Wolf Alice: they completely take your brain hostage as you enter their world, or in this case, the tumultuous weekend-long journey you’ve been allowed to tag along for.
Blue Weekend essentially serves as an older sibling to the band’s previous releases, My Love is Cool (2015) and Visions of a Life (2017), taking certain elements from each and kicking them up a cinematic notch or two with an added presence of warm orchestral sequences and twinkling keys that whisper like a subtle breeze. For example, it begins with "The Beach," its opening signaled with rapid-paced, isolated drumming and acoustic vibrations. "I’m sick of circling the drain," vocalist Ellie Rowsell swoons softly, followed shortly thereafter with angelic, swelling strings.
But for fans looking for the spine-chilling energy that Wolf Alice is known for, the album has its fair share of shredders, too. With tracks such as "Smile," the record’s second single, the four-piece reminds listeners of their roots as it crashes in with a fuzzy, booming bassline, harsh and abrasive guitar solos, and effortlessly entrancing drumming at the hand of drummer Joel Amey. To top it off, Ellie spits each line, simulating images of her stomping around a stage and swirling her microphone cord as she does. Thematically, the track is a perfect 'fuck you' directed at opinionated passersbys who always seem to have something to say about how women dress, act, feel, and speak. Lines such as, "I am what I am and I am good at it / If you don't like me, well, that isn't fucking relevant," serve as a reminder that, regardless of what anyone else has to say, you have the right to be comfortable in your own skin and to do whatever you please, and that you don't have to sit quietly in the face of criticism.
Later, "Play The Greatest Hits" is an equally hard-hitting banger that would surely part a sea of sweaty bodies. "It isn’t loud enough!," Ellie growls repeatedly; the thought of hearing such a command in a live-setting is chill-inducing. With its high-energy, pulse-quickening aura, tracks such as this are truly satisfying in their aggression, combining razor-sharp edges with a decent amount of bite to match. Here, I’m reminded of what made me, and many others, love Wolf Alice in the first place: their fuck-all attitude and knack for crafting songs that can get audiences moving and screaming along.
Blue Weekend also exhibits moments -- like the opening track -- where the group reduce their hallmark harsh inclinations and make way for moments of divine, strategically layered instrumentation, the creation of some of their most lush and intricate work to date.
For example, "Delicious Things," a track littered with references to the biblical Adam and Eve, seems to speak of the opulence and glamor of sitting under the spotlight, but also, the pitfalls that can come with giving into temptation and the beast that is fame. Musically, it’s an orchestral delight, joining larger-than-life string sequences with crashing cymbals, silky-smooth guitar solos, and a pristine exhibition of Ellie's vocal prowess as she croons operatically. Later, "Feeling Myself," which sits somewhere at the crossroads between heavy and airy, is chock full of innuendo, taking on unapologetic sexual energy in describing a feeling of frustration both in life and in the bedroom. Returning to the theme of self-love found on "Smile," it serves as a reminder that one’s space, time, and pleasure aren’t invaluable and matter just as much as anyone else's.
Mellowing things down even further, the record’s third single "No Hard Feelings" is simple, yet hypnotic, serving as a key example that Wolf Alice is far more than just another rock band on the shelf. Lyrically, it’s a heartfelt truce, a moment where Ellie’s emotional ball of string is able to unwind in the wake of a breakup, when she finally waves the white flag, expressing that it would hurt far more to harbor negative feelings toward her ex-lover than to move on. Much like the acceptance and peace found in the conclusion of that relationship, the album closes on a similarly satisfying note with a return to the beach, the track ("The Beach II") chiming in with distorted and all-encompassing static and somber instrumentals, rounding out the rollercoaster of a tracklist with a bittersweet goodbye.
Blue Weekend traverses a delicate tightrope, exhibiting instances where the speaker stands calm, collected, and strong during tracks that display quick-witted, attitudinous lyricism and heart-pumping melodies, and later, revealing said speaker’s anxious, trembling knees with softer, more emotive inclusions. In those more vulnerable moments, the band offers relief, relaying back to their audience that expressions of heartbreak, fear, rage, and frustration do come and go, but eventually, like waves on a metaphorical beach, they roll out with the tide. And once those feelings do go back out to sea, that’s when one can experience an emotive release and let go.
Blue Weekend officially comes out this Friday (6/4), and you can pre-order it on limited transparent green vinyl from our store. Prior to its release (and on the day of the band appearing on The Late Late Show with James Corden), I sat down with Ellie over Zoom to discuss the process of approaching their comeback record, lyrical inspiration, her experience under the spotlight, and much more. Read on for our chat...
Hey Ellie! To begin, would you say the time you have spent away from non-stop touring and buzzing around has been ultimately beneficial in helping Wolf Alice grow and this album come to be? Or were certain aspects of this break more difficult than others?
Yeah, well, I feel like we didn’t really even take that much of a break, to be honest, because, by the time we finished touring, it had already been a few years — well, we finished touring after at least two years — so, I was already kind of aware that I didn’t want it to be too much longer before we released any new music. So, we did have a break, but it was more like a break from touring where we were conscious like, “No, we should get some new material going. So, it was always kind of there, but it was very necessary for us to have some time at home and I think that helped us reset a little bit and take in all that we had experienced.
So, with Blue Weekend in mind, did you go into the writing process with set intentions, or something specific to say, or did everything come about more organically?
When we come off tour, we always have some intentions, but we don’t necessarily always stick to them. Like, we were saying the other day, maybe if we go and play a festival ad we go and watch a band that we really like — like, we went on tour with Queens of the Stone Age and we were just like, “Ahh, let’s write some rock songs” — we feel inspired by other people to write in a certain way, but we never really stick to it, to be honest. We always just choose the songs that we feel are the strongest, regardless of whatever genre or vibe we had hoped we would do. We don’t limit ourselves to our limited intentions; if it’s going to make the record better, then that’s fine.
And with expectations regarding what you have put out previously considered, did approaching the task of writing the follow-up to an album that was so greatly received (Visions of A Life) feel daunting at all, or were you mostly just excited?
I definitely think we’re super excited to have new stuff and to hopefully, eventually tour it [laughs]. Yeah, also to see how much we’ve grown as songwriters and performers and recording artists — we’ve gone and put everything we’ve learned into practice, so, it’s always exciting to have new stuff, to see that.