Over the course of their eleven years, London-born alt rock band Wolf Alice has proven that they’re a band to watch. Their 2015 debut album, My Love Is Cool, was welcomed by fans and critics who celebrated the band’s potential, drawing comparisons to the 1975, Radiohead, and ABBA. Their sophomore effort, 2017’s Visions of a Life, was met with near universal acclaim, earning the Mercury Prize and NME’s label of “Best band in Britain? 100 percent.” Their third album, 2021’s Blue Weekend, takes what Wolf Alice has built over their past two studio albums and raises the bar further, giving fans even more emotion, more clarity, and more confidence.
The album is framed by “The Beach” and “The Beach II,” two tracks that share little in common beyond their names. Evoking Shakespeare’s Macbeth with a haunting melody, album opener “The Beach” slowly crescendos, introducing the breakup theme that loosely runs throughout the album with a strong sense of foreboding. The sweeping, gentle guitar and synth of “The Beach II” serve as the final moment of catharsis for the album, closing with a sense of calm contentment amongst a weirdly fitting cacophony.
Within the frame, there’s plenty to be found that shows Wolf Alice’s range, as well as the versatility of lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s vocals. From the softer, pretty performances of the folksy guitar-driven “Safe from Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)” and the Fleetwood Mac-esque sounds of “How Can I Make It Ok?” to the high energy, punk-inspired “Play the Greatest Hits” (a companion to Visions of a Life’s “Yuk Foo”), Blue Weekend offers the listener plenty of dimension. Pitting breakup drama against a commentary on fame, the band’s confidence shines through their lyrics, with examples like “I am what I am and I’m good at it/And if you don’t like me, well that isn’t fucking relevant” in the hard rock-tinged “Smile.” Lead single “The Last Man on Earth” unassumingly delivers a punch with its commentary on the arrogance and passive tendencies of man, moving from a quiet, calm beginning that works its way up to a piano-heavy rock sound.
Blue Weekend is a rollercoaster of emotions, pulling the listener through a history of relationships of every kind–romantic, to fame, to the rest of the world–taking turns between languishing in and relishing the experiences. There’s plenty of their signature combination of shoegaze, grunge, and indie rock, now combined with touches of pop and classic rock. The turns taken on the album may surprise, but they don’t shock; Wolf Alice has perfectly melded the different styles of music, crafting an album more akin to an evocative, go-with-the-flow collection of short stories rather than a single linear tale.
With every release, Wolf Alice builds up expectations, and every ensuing release–including Blue Weekend–more than meets those expectations, promising more great things to come in the future. Blue Weekend takes what makes Wolf Alice great and sharpens it into a tighter, more focused piece that explores these relationships, evoking the immediacy of emotion and the wisdom of distance depending on the track. This newfound focus and confidence brings Wolf Alice’s music down to Earth without losing that signature edgy shoegaze sound, maturing their sound in the best possible way.