2017 Albums

Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life (Review)

I’ve been a huge Wolf Alice fan from the start. When they released their debut album “My Love is Cool” back in the summer of 2015, there was hope for music again. With songs like “Fluffy,” Wolf Alice bring grunge, shoe-gaze and indie influences into their music. There’s seriously nothing stopping them from becoming the next “big thing.” After not releasing music for two years, Wolf Alice are back with “Visions of a Life.” Also, loving the album cover featuring Ellie’s Aunt (they look scarily alike!) it fools the audience into believing this could be a heavy-metal album…

“Heavenward” starts off the album with stunning experimental ambient noises that work so well. Heavenly vibes all around with the whole of the song which is definitely the right thing to do seeing as this song is about one of the band’s friends who passed away. Nobody knows what heaven really is and I love Wolf Alice’s interpretation on what they think heaven might sound like. I’m sensing “Sonic Youth” vibes from this song with the ambient on the verge of sounding like soft-noise rock. Overall, a neat song put together with delicate instruments.

Rebellious song “Yuk Foo” is about Ellie’s expectations of being a ‘woman’ but really this song is definitely a middle finger to all the haters that have high expectations of people. It’s not to be taken to seriously and that’s what makes the song work. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this song because it feels somewhat forced, but I really like the punk attitude of it though, it’s very different to all of their other songs in this sense because it uses some bad language. A song about attitude never hurts anyone does it? We definitely need songs that have a bit more “balls” in the world at the moment instead of obeying by the rules. If you’re struggling with this song, put it on repeat and I’m sure in no time you’ll be singing “No, I don’t give a s***!!”

‘Beautifully Unconventional” is melodically clever with Wolf Alice going back to their roots, this song is drowned in indie-goodness. The song is based on the 1988 film Heathers and is from the character “JD’s” perspective. I really like how Ellie got influence with writing the lyrics from a film, it’s unusual and different from writing about personal experiences. This is probably the catchiest song on the whole album and maybe the most cleverly written one too. The bass line in the verses corresponds so nicely with Ellie’s voice creating this feel good sound. The video gets a Marilyn Monroe vibe down to a tee, even though the film “Heathers” is a bit more “dark,” it’s funny to see Ellie being so sweet and innocent.

“Head out the window on a long drive” is how Ellie has described “Don’t Delete the Kisses” and I seriously couldn’t have put it better myself. This song is making people feel nostalgic of all their memories that haven’t even been made yet, and that’s so powerful. The coming of age song is clearly about the voice in your head making you think that “love” is scary and we all know it’s right. “Don’t Delete the Kisses” is obviously linked with how people type “xx” after each message and if some people don’t put the “kisses” others get really worried or even paranoid that they’ve done something wrong. It’s a bit silly but we all know that we’ve done/do that. Justin Meldal-Johnsen has done an extraordinary job of the production of the album as it must be hard producing Wolf Alice to give their essential sound of “ambience” and “noise-rock.”

“Planet Hunter” is a personal favourite of mine from this album so I may be a bit biased, but will try to see it from all views. Once again, I can definitely hear the “Sonic Youth” vibes with this gorgeous 90’s alternative rock sound. The way Ellie pronounces some of her words is kind of lazy and delicate, which some people may like, some might not. The song definitely sounds unfinished but you can tell that’s the sound they’re going for. The reverb from Ellie’s angelic vocals sometimes gets lost in the mix but the reverb is what makes the song so prominent. I love how the song just keeps building and that could be linked with the song being about not wanting a night to end.

Next we have a song that is really dark, not only the lyrics and how Ellie says the words, but even the rhythmical pattern and chords are creepy. “Sky Musings” sounds like it could be in a film where someone is talking to god on their deathbed. It’s progressive and experimental. Wolf Alice are definitely diving through many musical influences to create this album and that’s what makes it so much better. The songs are great, but the ideas behind the songs are even better. Ellie has said that this song is about deep thoughts that people have and they can be anywhere, it just happened that Ellie’s dark thoughts were on a long plane flight.

“Formidable Cool” is just plain groovy. The bass drives this song with similar melodies to the guitar. Harmonically the song kind of sounds indian like with the use of notes they use, which is really interesting. The song was inspired by a book called “The Girls” by Emma Cline which is about a young teenager getting drawn into a bad gang. Formidable Cool is, well, cool, it’s indie but kind of post-punk/shoegaze too. I’ve said something similar to this already but I adore how Wolf Alice are bringing back the feel of the late 80’s/90’s.

Soft punk is the feel for this next song. I love the use of effects that Ellie uses on her vocals as it’s kind of distorted but super clear at the same time. The song sounds very upbeat and pumped with energy, but the song deals with anxiety. Half way through it completely drops to soft vocals and a very quiet guitar before fighting back into a heavy chorus again. This part could be empathy for an “anxiety episode” meaning it goes quiet when she/the band are having a bad anxiety attack and they just need “Space and Time.”

“Sadboy” lyrically sounds like it’s stuck in a nursery rhyme melodically, while the instruments sound very theatrical and orchestral. The song stays the same until  But you think too much” strikes in the second verse where it completely changes. As the instruments cut out to what sounds like a very soft violin being plucked, the drums start again with a zombie kind of military march. Pitch shifted vocals creates a new pulse for the song and it’s really strange. The ending of this song is way better than the beginning. It’s like “Sadboy” has two completely different sides to it, as a bit of a bipolar effect. It turns very experimental and makes you question what’s really going on with it. I didn’t like it the first time I heard it, but it’s definitely growing on me.

Angelic vocals start of “St Purple and Green” which is then pumped into a rhythmically funky beat. The lyrics are soft and folky as well as Ellie’s spoken words. This song is about Ellie’s Nan. “You might be changing,  But you’re still there, And you’re still my Nana” is a very personal lyric, it seems like Ellie’s nan may be fading away with old age. The key changes in this album are absolutely gorgeous, I adore it the notes/chords used when Ellie says “Nana.” I’m not a big fan of how it goes from really soft verses to back into the rhythmically funky part, it doesn’t seem to fit as well as it could of been. I do like how they’re trying to experimental though, but maybe this song is a bit too manic for the concept. The ending goes back to angelic vocals with the stunning key changes. Precious song that you can hear ALL of the emotions. 

The orchestral feel that the angelic vocals mirrors makes the song so much more lovelier than it is. “After the Zero Hour” isn’t the strongest song from the album, but it still dives through ambient goodness. I think this song is a personal favourite of Ellie’s just as I saw in an interview that she mentioned how she doesn’t remember writing this song and it just came out of her like “emotional vomit.” This is definitely the most “folk” song on the album. There are two parts of the song that sounds very similar to early Neil Young “Harvest” days which is definitely a positive

“Visions of a Life” is the last but longest song on the whole album. There’s probably more pressure for this song to be so good because it’s the name of the album too. The song really showcases what Wolf Alice are all about. It’s progressive and experimental, but alternative too. Ellie’s voice varies from her always angelic vocals, into haunting anger. Her vocal range is definitely something to be proud of. The only thing with this song is, I’m finding it hard to connect with. It doesn’t feel like it has a set subject or something to remember from the song, which is different and good, but not everybody wants that.

After listening to this album probably 4 times all the way through now, I’m definitely liking it more than I did the first time I heard it. It’s indie. and it ROCKS.
So glad Wolf Alice are back.

Score – 8/10
Favourite Tracks: Heavenward, Beautifully Unconventional, Don’t Delete the Kisses, Planet Hunter, Sky Musings, Formidable Cool, St Purple and Green.

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