By Greg Kennelty, October 30, 2017

 

Front to Back Album Review: Wolf Alice - Visions Of A Life

  • Released: September 29, 2017
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Producer: Justin Moldal-Johnsen

 

Wolf Alice's progression from its debut album to sophomore effort can easily be likened to the transition between being a loud attention-seeking high school kid and really coming into one's own in college. Wolf Alice came out of the gate swinging in 2015 with My Love Is Cool with raucous guitars and boisterous tracks laden with high-gain distortion, but now in 2017 the band has diversified its musical portfolio and written an album that's as eclectic as it is entertaining. In fact, the only direct descendants of My Love Is Cool to be found on Visions Of A Life is Yuk Foo, the lead single and arguably the weakest song off the album. Wolf Alice is just downright better than that.

 

It should've been a tipoff that Visions Of A Life would be dramatically different and pleasingly strange when it was revealed the album wasWolf Alice - Visions Of A Life produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen. Meldal-Johnsen was Beck's longtime bassist from 1996 to 2006, and has since produced catchy hit albums like M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, Tegan and Sara's Heartthrob, and Paramore's self-titled. The point being Meldal-Johnsen's resume is loaded with transitional albums, and specifically ones that had some significant singles alongside the fact that any of the aforementioned albums are solid front to back as well.

 

Wolf Alice dropped four singles from Visions Of A Life between its announcement in June and its release in September, and all four songs couldn't have been more different. Yuk Foo was a mohawk-sporting punk jam, Don't Delete the Kisses toned things down and took a subdued approach to the band's previous rock efforts on My Love Is Cool, Beautifully Unconventional was nearly a 1950s throwback ballad with a modern bite, and Heavenward touched on the dream pop aesthetics of bands like Superheaven and Silversun Pickups. Despite their differences, all four songs represented an album that was absolutely unpredictable in terms of style, but still revolved around a centric tonality that's instantly identifiable as Wolf Alice. There's a very hazy, distorted, dream-like quality that Wolf Alice projects throughout Visions Of A Life's runtime that ties everything together. It's how Visions Of A Life goes from a collection of would-be singles to a full-on album that really, genuinely feels like an album.

 

Production-wise, Visions Of A Life is exactly what I said before. It’s a hazy trip through growing up, heartbreak, nostalgia and just life in general. No matter if they’re distorted or clean, the guitars and bass always manage to maintain a certain obscurity to them and the drums never quite pop. The only real sounds sitting comfortably in the high end are Ellie Rowsell’s vocals, and while this all sounds a little off-putting, Wolf Alice makes it work quite well. It created a soundstage that isn’t separate instruments so much as it is one continuous paint smear that still manages to be an intricate landscape.

 

So sit back and let your speakers exude the foggy, distorted visions of Wolf Alice.

 

Listened via Spotify & YouTube on EGG plugged in via USB.