Palace take listeners on a mesmerising journey through a collection of atmospheric anthems in their latest album, Shoals.
The London-based band’s third studio album reflects the fears and anxieties that were heightened during the pandemic with 12 powerful tracks that explore themes of the subconscious, dreams and existentialism. Coming after the success of their first two albums which grew their loyal fanbase, Shoals sees Palace refine and reimagine their sound to something more pensive, and the result is their finest work yet.
The record starts with Never Said It Was Easy, which introduces things with big piano chords and heavy reverb, perfectly matched by harmonic layered vocals and moving lyrics from frontman Leo Wyndham. Although the general mood is melancholic, it still finds a way to sound uplifting and full of hope. This positive vibe gently rolls into the next few tracks, Fade is an indie classic that would be sure to sound great heard live, and the single Gravity stands out with its floaty landscapes and funky basslines that lead into a captivatingly smooth chorus.
The record naturally flows onward, Give Me The Rain and Friends Forever are two more highlights that are both musically and lyrically impressive, full of accomplished guitar and distinguished vocals. Single track Lover (Don’t Let Me Down) is arguably the pick of the album and perfectly encapsulates the dreamy and emotional atmosphere; gentle chord progressions and soothing vocals make up the verses that slowly swell into a delightful chorus to form another doozy.
Sadly, the final third of Shoals is not quite as absorbing. Sleeper, Salt and Shoals are all solid tracks but compared to their predecessors they sound slightly flat. Thankfully though, the final song Where Sky Becomes Sea rounds off the album as it started. A stripped-back ballad where Wyndham’s soft and rich vocals are given space to shine again.
Shoals is a real showcase of Palace’s unique and dynamic sound. There is a bittersweet profoundness running throughout, matched with stellar vocals, excellent guitar and drum work and flawless production. Unlike the erratic and chaotic movement of the shoals of fish that inspired the name of the record, Shoals flows perfectly, and no track seems out of place. Released ahead of their upcoming UK tour – their biggest to date – it’s no question that the indie outfit are on the up. Overall, a moving and enjoyable album that I will certainly come back to when I need something relaxing and comforting to listen to.