“When will we meet again?/ In thunder, lighting, in rain” – Wolf Alice’s “The Beach” from Blue Weekend.
The opening track to Wolf Alice’s 2021 album Blue Weekend announces itself with the above lines, the timeless opening of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, spoken by the first of the three Witches whose machinations predicate the downfall of the hero. This serves as an introduction to a dizzying storm of an album that defies genre trappings and revels in the boiling and toiling of Blue Weekend’s emotional complexities. Confronting themes of narcissism, emotional placation, and self-doubt, lead singer Ellie Rowsell guides the listener through these highs and lows. By the end of the album, the listener is left breathlessly satisfied in a way only confident, poignant pieces of art can.
From their inception in 2010, London-based band Wolf Alice, consisting of singer Ellie Rowsell, guitarist Joff Oddie, bassist Theo Ellis, and drummer Joel Amey, have enjoyed an enormous amount of critical and commercial success. Their official debut EP Blush came in 2013, released on the band’s SoundCloud, receiving attention from NME and UK Radio station BBC Radio 1, They signed to Dirty Hit the following year, the label that manages The 1975, Rina Sawayama, and 2020 breakout Beebadoobee. After another EP, their 2014 Creature Songs, the band released their debut album My Love Is Cool in 2015, which went certified gold in the UK and received critical acclaim. It was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize and was included on various best-of lists at the end of the year. In the resulting tour supporting this album, the band also enjoyed the company of director Michael Winterbottom, tracking the events of their travel across Great Britain in the documentary On the Road (2016).
Up until the release of this year’s Blue Weekend, the band’s crowning achievement was seen as their 2017 sophomore album, Visions Of A Life, which was met with further acclaim and commercial success, and again winning the 2018 Mercury Prize, beating out the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Florence + The Machine, Jorja Smith, and Lily Allen.
Then came Blue Weekend on June 4th, 2021, preceded by the singles “The Last Man on Earth,” “Smile,” “No Hard Feelings” and “How Can I Make It OK?” Blue Weekend combines the alternative rock sound of the band’s previous efforts with an effervescent melange of genre trappings, with the expert guiding hand of producer Markus Dravs. Dravs has worked with artists like Arcade Fire, Björk, Coldplay, and Mumford & Sons. All four band members share writing and production credits for the album, and this cohesion remains evident throughout the measured 40-minute runtime. The album bounces between the folk instrumentals that guitarist Joff Oddie showed off on his 2020 solo album To Mr. Fahey, to Chemical Brothers inspired tracks like “Smile”, to Fleetwood Mac-esque crooning on “How Can I Make it Ok?”
The album’s versatility is one of its strengths, and the opening and closing with “The Beach” and “The Beach II” reinforces the cinematic qualities. The band shot and released a film to coincide with the album, also titled Blue Weekend. This film, directed by fashion photographer, cinematographer, and director Jordan Hemmingway, who has worked with Gucci, Nike, and music artist Yves Tumor, was broken up into chapters that were released as music videos for the album.
The album marks another considerable step forward for the already impressive London band. After a slew of universally positive reviews and a debut at No. 1 in the UK album charts, beating the five-week reigning queen Oliva Rodrigo, it currently sits as one of the best-reviewed albums of 2021.
And the band isn’t done there – they are scheduled to play a slew of festivals in the UK, including Reading and Leeds, with a US tour slated for the second half of this year, with European dates to follow. It is already appearing on best of 2021 lists despite the fact that we are merely halfway through the year. Wolf Alice’s trans-Atlantic influence will only continue to permeate as the year unfolds and more continue to tune in to this stunning sonic achievement.