The second LP from London four-piece Wolf Alice is in many ways an extension of their impressive debut of two years ago, and sees them refine the volatile, shape-shifting time-bomb that is their sound in a hugely assured manner. Since their emergence onto the scene, their rise has been so meteoric that Wolf Alice are already critically regarded as one of the best British bands around today. The intricacy and metamorphosing nature of their songwriting is discerning beyond their years, and the versatility and precision of Ellie Rowsell’s vocal delivery is devastatingly captivating whether it’s in the form of a frenzied snarl or an angelic, floating dreamboat.
Visions of a Life is a superb exhibition of all of this. Opening track Heavenward is an indulgently textured track that boasts guitars as far as the eye can see, nodding to the shoegazing inclinations of Slowdive and MBV whilst being a sound that is entirely Wolf Alice’s own. Rowsell is the real difference maker, with her delectable, wordless vocal inviting the listener into an intimate place entirely of her own concoction. By the time her vocals take lexical form, the track has built into a wall of alleviating noise. It’s a stunning display and distillation of sound, almost scientific in its precarious balance of loud and quiet.
Lead single Yuk Foo follows, and is Visions of a Life’s You’re a Germ – a two-minute explosion of carefully considered punk rage. Beautifully Conventional is track three, and by this point, the album has already demonstrated gorgeously textured shoegaze, haphazard animosity and a deliciously catchy pop-rock groove. Rowsell governs all with aplomb.
A key factor in why Wolf Alice sound so original despite their leanings on so many sounds is the razor-sharp rhythm section that keeps Rowsell on her own very liberal tether. Joel Amey’s drums are dressed in the best that 2017 studio wizardry has to offer, with each snare strike mixed with laser-guided precision. Theo Ellis’s basslines are just as impeccable, resulting in a volley of flawless grooves that continue to grip and allow Rowsell to mesmerise with maximum proficiency.
The record has a stunning flow even when considered its tendency to flit from one extreme to another, and its songs are consistently strong. Don’t Delete The Kisses is an exquisite dose of synthpop. Planet Hunter is built on the foundations of a simple but stupefying guitar riff, and Rowsell’s vocals – and of course their delivery – in the verses are as good as anywhere else on the record. Sky Musings is a stream of breathless consciousness about the anxiety of flying at 40,000 feet that is forced home by a panicked, pulsing drum skit that mirrors the heartbeat of a nervous flyer when it dawns on them just where they are, and what it means if something goes awry.
Visions of a Life continues to shapeshift from track to track. Formidable Cool starts with a twanging, southern rock riff before exploding into a typhoon of indignation. The punk sensibilities return to the forefront as Rowsell muses about losing a grip on life in Space & Time. The triplet of Sadboy, St. Purple & Green and After the Zero Hour is the folkiest part of the record, with St. Purple, in particular, another example – if we needed another – of the band’s ability to take a smorgasbord of directions and mesh them into a functioning, tidy arrangement of sound. The title track that closes the record is Giant Peach like in its crescendo of motorik guitars.
Wolf Alice have come up with the goods again with their second LP, and in Ellie Rowsell they have a frontwoman who hypnotises and enthralls at will. Visions of a Life follows on from My Love is Cool almost seamlessly, and with two hugely accomplished records already in their arsenal, Wolf Alice are a band who have the world at their feet.
[FIRST PUBLISHED ON NO RIPCORD]