Album Review: Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

By Emily DiAlbert, Contributor
[RCA; 2017]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Don’t Delete the Kisses”, “Sadboy”, “After the Zero Hour”

London-based alternative rock group Wolf Alice is a transformative, dynamic band that successfully incorporates every aspect of music, from whispers to screams, into a heartily powerful record. The group completely changed the definition of alternative rock in the best way possible. Visions of a Life, the band’s sophomore album, is an evolutionary investigation into the elements of rock. Each component of the album is a visionary, different sound that provokes feelings which force listeners to bang their heads, scream and also cry a little. The elements seamlessly flow together into a pounding symphony of arguably the best rock in the 20-teens.

Each key track is a different sound from the previous, which is why the focus is on them. Each song on the album, though, delivers in an individual way. This album is designed to pull in every alternative fan, and it is highly successful.

“Don’t Delete the Kisses” explores lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s fear of commitment and her embracing of emotion. The track begins with an echoed, almost-wobbly guitar solo; drums pound and Rowsell sings in a wispy, shiny and echoed voice. Rowsell is unique in that she can switch from a whisper to a cry, to a scream in seconds. Her talent is truly unheard of, comparable to a mix of Courtney Barnett and HAIM. In “Don’t Delete the Kisses”, Rowsell starts off the track by investigating her fear of commitment when yelling: “What if it’s not meant for me? / Love” and finishes off by overcoming her previous fears and fully embracing her feelings when yelling: “Me and you were meant to be/In love.” Rowsell describes it as “one of those … ‘head-out-the window on a long drive’ kind of tunes,” and this is clearly one. The song serves as a “Screw it, I’m happy” sweet, little, love tune. Listeners should definitely be here for it.

“Sadboy” begins with tip-tapping symbols and a sweet, pulsing acoustic guitar. Rowsell highlights her ‘cry voice’ here as she serenades a certain sadboy, one which every listener probably knows already (a Holden Caulfield meets Charlie Kelmeckis, perhaps?). The track is different in that it manages to sound clean and light while also focusing on dark subject material (“Who hurt you, sadboy? / There’s a dark cloud above your head.”) Lead guitarist Joff Oddie is given clear opportunities to show off his head-banging talent through pounding guitar solos that scream out pain and depth. Drummer Joel Amey is also given the same opportunity. Halfway through the song, the band shifts into a darker, eerier tone; Rowsell starts off whispering, then heads into an intense scream which is followed by a powerful belting of the lyrics. It sounds like it would be a mess, but it’s mesmerizing, magical and certainly unparalleled.

“After the Zero Hour” starts off much softer, slower and dreamier than the other tracks. Rowsell echoes her voice in a hypnotizing siren’s call. The zero hour (the set time for a military attack) represents Rowsell’s excruciating pain, and post-zero hour Rowsell describes getting to start again. One of the more powerful lyrics on the entire record comes from this track: “So this girl refused to cry/but embrace her lust for life.” The song really forms a cooing ballad around the concept of celebrating the best gifts in life. The first track on the album (“Heavenward”) was dedicated to a friend that died, and this song ties into the concept of “keep on keeping on” after something horrible and unexpected happens (like the death of a loved one, or a military sabotage). “After the Zero Hour” is really just a representation of how art imitates life, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

Visions of a Life could genuinely be one of the best alternative rock albums released so far in 2017.  Like all good music, the album has certain pitfalls, but the talent of each individual member of Wolf Alice is unattainable. The band meshes together so perfectly which aids in creating undefined sounds and the generation seamless music. The record is original, focuses on topics of interest and combines lyrical tones in ways that are unprecedented. Hats off to you, Wolf Alice — this record shines, and will glow for a long time.

Listen here:

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