Max Kakacek (Smith Westerns) and drummer Julien Ehrlich (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) have combined to form Whitney. Their new album is sweet, a little brassy and conjures the best of ’70s soft rock. They’re at Holocene on Aug. 3.
Wolf Alice is a band that manages to give credit to their influences while never seeming to be in love with anyone other than themselves. With both hands stretched wide the band pulls from the past to break the idols of ’90s rock into pieces over our heads. Their 2015 debut album, My Love Is Cool, aims big. But in this current climate of neo-grunge bands, where narcissistic attitudes are winning fans purely by virtue of indie-rock’s self deprecating insecurity, Wolf Alice does more than just regurgitate a rebelliousness bereft of actual vision. The band plays music raw though polished, sprawling though catchy, emotionally vulnerable yet toxically indifferent. It is their ability to authentically inhabit these contradictions that makes them compelling, and reminds me of those great ’90s bands that made pretentiousness a sin. Within their heavy hitting melodic folk-grunge (there are no genres anymore, only comparisons) they borrow heavily from the likes of Nirvana, The Bends-era Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Blur, Pixies, and even electro-rockers The Knife. And like these other bands, Wolf Alice is uncompromising, yet somehow keeps getting more popular.
Singer Ellie Rowsell has a flexible voice and wears several hats throughout the album, easily switching from the opening lullaby purity of “Turn To Dust” to the accusatory blankness in “You’re A Germ” where she sings “You ain’t going to heaven/cause I’m dragging you down to hell.” Her unwillingness to settle on a pegged down identity is one of her best traits as a songwriter, and shows us a human that is increasingly comfortable with complexity. That being said, her lyrics concern the everyday scenes of friendship, teenage lust, smoking menthols, and small-town boredom. Sound familiar? Good.
These English rockers are frankly the freshest thing coming out of the British scene right now, primarily because they have a voice that, although borrowing a lot from the past, speaks from the heart. And that never goes out of style. »
– Ethan Martin
Wolf Alice plays live in Portland August 11 at Hawthorne Theatre