‘The band’s penchant for storytelling still shines as one of their strongest skills’
Sarah Shodipe
14:00 19th July 2019

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By now, we’re all familiar with the story of ‘The Difficult Second Album’. Band puts out debut. People like debut. Band tours debut. People ask for more. Band try to make lighting strike twice. In most cases it goes in one of two ways: that sophomore album cements the band and their successful future, or it falls flat on its face. In the case of Palace, their task was to build on the sound of their good, not great first album. So has their second release Life After achieved that? Well, the jury's still out, really.

As the record opens with its title track, ambient is one of the first words that come to mind. A true blue indie feel, that same vibe drives straight into ‘Berlin’ with its summery guitar tones. It’s here that the intricacies of Palace’s lyrics make themselves known. Personal and heartwarming, the band’s penchant for storytelling shines as one of their strongest skills. It’s one of the aspects that makes the album flow with such easy going energy that feels comfortably familiar.

However, it’s that same familiarity that see the album’s pitfalls. Songs like ‘Face In The Crowd’ and ‘Running Wild’ follow the same folky, formulaic blueprint that we’ve heard so many times before. It almost automatically conjurers up comparisons to Mumford And Sons, Foals and the like. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the overall tone of the Life After may well have you tearing out your hair wishing for a more unique sound.

To give Palace their credit though, that doesn't necessarily mean the passion doesn't come through. If anything, those laid back vibes give way for frontman Leo Wyndham’s vocals to truly express the emotion of the songs. Satisfaction can be found with ‘Martyr’, which feels like an underground indie anthem in the making. Plus, the ‘Caught My Breath’ chorus walkdown is wonderfully subtle in its infectiousness. It’s all well performed and brimming with talented. Nevertheless, you can tell this is the comfort zone for Palace.

It’s hard to escape the sense that Palace sound like so many of their counterparts. As a result, Life After comes across as an album you’ve heard plenty of times before. There is a moment of hope as the closer ‘Heaven Up There’ has this ethereal, wispy tone that manages to make the seven minute run time breeze. But even then, for an 11 song album, you get to a point where you start to want more; a moment of shock, a change from what is clearly the norm for the band. But it just doesn’t come.

Life After is out now via Fiction Records. 

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