Shoegaze-y U.K. three-piece Palace looked inward to produce the rich, sonically beautiful and deeply personal ‘Shoals’, another varied addition to a catalog with smash hits like 2016’s “Live Well.”
Stream: ‘Shoals’ – Palace
I think I’ve always been a very fearful person. Fear of the world, fear of people, fear of myself. I’ve carried those fears into my adult life and never sort of understood them.
For Leo Wyndham, the initial stages of the ongoing pandemic proved not unlike an especially deep mirror and a chance to examine inner turmoil in a new way. He’s not alone in that regard, especially when one hears Shoals, the alternately dreamy and yet intense third record from U.K. trio Palace.
With Wyndham out in front confronting long-standing anxieties and worldly fears, the album (released last month on Fiction Records) is a fitting look at the band’s mental state, buoyed by a mixture of hope and fear in equal measure.
“I think I’ve always been a very fearful person,” Wyndham says via phone from the U.K. last month. “Fear of the world, fear of people, fear of myself. I’ve carried those fears into my adult life and never sort of understood them.”
Upon returning from a U.S. tour early in 2020, Wyndham and the band were gifted, in a way, with extra time and space to think about and confront those fears, and of course, to write and record. The result is an intensely personal album that manages to capture plenty of complex feelings below the surface.
“I found myself in a position of very much looking in the mirror,” Wyndham says. “Rather than shy away, I think I confronted myself. For me, that’s what it was about.”
In the midst of confronting his past and present, Wyndham and the band worked individually from the safety of their homes, passing files back and forth to put together the initial stages of a record.
Shoals captures the diversity of the band’s sound, which blends tuneful odes to love with wavy, shimmering nods to the early 2010s indie rock sound of DIIV and Wild Nothing.
I found myself in a position of very much looking in the mirror. Rather than shy away, I think I confronted myself. For me, that’s what it was about.
The album’s twelve multi-layered tracks flow seamlessly from one homage to the next, with the sort of dream-like appeal that would make Slowdive proud on “Where Sky Becomes Sea,” not to mention the “erratic and chaotic” appeal of “Fade,” which Wyndham himself emphasized as he chatted with Atwood.
This album sounds like the band challenging itself beyond the comfortable-yet-impressive confines of its wildly successful 2016 debut, So Long Forever, which turned five last fall.
Producer Leo Abrams, whose past credits include Brian Eno to Jon Hopkins, allowed the band to explore open spaces and new sonic tapestries across Shoals.
Wyndham recognizes the band’s growth since its fateful first release, which saw tracks like “Live Well” amass more than 50 million streams, taking the band through the festival circuit and to Stateside tours in the process.
“I love it and I connect to it, but I can hear a sort of earlier part of our musicianship — the songwriting is more sort of traditional… and it’s safer,” Wyndham says. In that case, the band has definitely pulled out as many stops as possible with Shoals, ending up on the shores of a new, hopefully safer horizon – not to mention one with a tour looming in the distance.
The album’s rich and yet delicate sound is reflective of what the trio listened to in the process of recording it: Artists like James Blake and electronic duo Mount Kimbie, among others.
“We wanted to play more with that slightly electronic sound,” Wyndham says. It’s the sort of multi-faceted sound that’ll give fans plenty to sink their teeth into when the trio takes the stage – sooner rather than later.
The band kicks off its winter tour on February 3rd in Glasgow before making its way to Dallas in April, with Northeast stops at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club and famed NYC venue Webster Hall scheduled for May.
“Having gigs taken away from us … really made us realize we can’t take this for granted,” Wyndham says, reminiscing on past gigs across the country. “The dream of playing these venues, it’s like completely wild.”
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? © Daniel Harris
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