ALBUM REVIEW: Unwanted – Pale Waves

Bursting onto the scene in 2018, Manchester power-pop band LIGHT WAVES immediately won fans over with their sparkling yet catchy anthems about young love and heartbreak. Initially struggling to emerge from the shadow of THE 1975Matt Healy acted as a mentor in the band’s early days – LIGHT WAVES differentiated themselves from their label mates on the follow-up disc Who am I?.

Deliberately responding to critics who would be quick to draw comparisons with their fellow Mancunians, the second album leaned more into ’90s pop and singer-songwriter influences, drawing comparisons to ALANIS MORRISETTE, AVRIL LAVIGNEand BLONDIE (the latter of which the band cites as a direct influence).

This album also saw the singer Heather Baron Gracie opening up lyrically, embracing his homosexuality on tracks like She is my religion. LIGHT WAVES‘ maturation continues on their third album, Undesirablewhich sees the band reinvent themselves once again by embracing a darker, more alternative sound.

Perhaps under the impetus of contemporaries like WILLOW SMITH and even OLIVIA RODRIGO, LIGHT WAVES entered their pop-punk era on album three. Muted guitars, power chords and peppy drum fills abound on the record, lending a grittier edge to the band’s love anthems. Makes sense considering the record was produced by Zakk Cerviniknown to work with FLASH-182 and MODERN BASE-BALLas well as the pop superstar HALSEY.

The style suits the band’s angsty personality perfectly, with lyrics like “I wish I could go back to the night I met you/So I could tell you to go to hell” filling the songs with youthful frustration. But it’s not all angst here, there’s also a lot of joyful moments, like the anthem of unrequited love. To clean and filled him with gratitude reasons to live. These moments of optimism find LIGHT WAVES at their most endearing, allowing a ray of sunshine to pierce the clouds of their dark goth-pop persona.

Hard is a beautiful and sweet take on a truly heartbreaking subject – Baron Graciethe experience of knowing a school friend who committed suicide. The rise and fall of “it was not my placeas she opens up about the guilt she felt and not doing more for her friend is truly heartbreaking and will no doubt see tear-stained vocals as part of the live. Despite the ballad accompanied by playful songs about exes, it doesn’t seem abusive. All LIGHT WAVES do is delivered with such sincerity and seriousness that one cannot help but be carried away by the emotion.

Although sweet melodies are LIGHT WAVES‘bread and butter’ songs sometimes seem a bit overproduced. Baron Graciethe distinctive voice of doesn’t need to be draped in layers for these melodies to stick – in fact, the harmonies on Numb almost removing one of the album’s most vulnerable moments.

Undesirable is not as big a leap forward as Who am I? but it’s still a progression for a group that finally seems at ease in a sound of its own.

Rating: 8/10

Unwanted is set to be released on August 12 via Dirty Hit.

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