Blues-inspired indie rock group Palace have released their third studio album Shoals, the first since 2019’s Life After. The album comes after a run of singles over the past two years and is a much-welcomed return from the London group and boasts some of their most powerful and thoughtful work to date. The 50-minute record appears a reflection of the dark and uncertain times the Covid-19 pandemic threw upon us in 2020, the year the band were beginning to harvest the material for this latest album from their creative fields. Shoals offers a well-balanced selection of tracks that at times echo some of the past brilliance of their work before the pandemic, and at others, show a marked departure as they have looked to draw influences from further afield with each member showing off some newfound ability.
With the opening track ‘Never Said It Was Easy’, the album ebbs and flows through a range of emotions mostly favouring those of melancholic indulgence. The blues-inspired instrumentals are textured throughout with reverb effects that are neither overused nor used too sparingly. In ‘Give Me the Rain’ especially, Palace exhibit the aforementioned departure from the boundaries of their previous work. The song is definitely one of my picks for best track on the LP, the delicacy of the guitar and vocals seem to rise into something otherworldly and if replicated well, could make a fantastic slower staple for their live performances.
While the album shows a significant growth instrumentally, it also exhibits a marked maturity of lyric writing from Leo Wyndham. The album appears to be the most earnest material the group have released to date and the naked fragility of the lyrics exploring themes of anxiety, insomnia and introspective musings stand testament to the concept that the best songwriting often comes from within.
Despite the melancholic atmosphere presented throughout much of the album, there is a healthy balance of upbeat and jauntier tracks too such as ‘Fade’ and ‘Gravity’ which appear almost reflective of the glimmers of hope in between the various stadials of lockdown endured over the past couple of years.
The album definitely keeps its shiniest gems at the beginning of the record where the songs seem to bounce off one another in a brooding narrative; towards the end, the material appears to lose the purposeful energy and identity of the initial run of tracks despite being very worthy additions in their own right.
Shoals marks a significant turning point in Palace’s development and I hope this newfound sound – which appears pessimistic when measured against the high energy optimism expressed throughout much of the previous album Life After – doesn’t reflect any extant depression within the group, but all the same, I hope they continue down this path creatively.
Stream the new album below.