Via the process of osmosis alone, UK alt-rockers Wolf Alice have become a force we all recognise, many of us having key moments of heartbreak soundtracked exclusively by their wares. Certainly one for the feelers, Wolf Alice have developed a unique habit for clocking listeners with their poignant tales of woe and wonder, bypassing our immune system and other natural defences to sink their hooks deep, deep within our hearts – black and cold though they may be.
Wolf Alice shared their third full-length record, Blue Weekend, last year, following hot on the heels of 2017’s Visions Of A Life. If anything, the new record only confirmed that Wolf Alice are yet to reach their cruising altitude. So now is the time to really commit to being a Wolf Alice fan. To take some of the heavy lifting out of the process, we put together some key steps to help you acclimate to your new favourite band.
‘Bros’ – My Love Is Cool (2015)
The second track from Wolf Alice’s debut album My Love Is Cool, ‘Bros’ holds prime real estate to reach out from the speakers and pull even the most casual of listeners deep into the album. Jangling, charmingly cluttered and playfully brooding, the song is a shimmering, down-tempo good time. The track was a labour of love for the band, who began piecing it together upon their inception in 2010, and kept whittling it away until it became the album version we know and love today. As such, ‘Bros’ is special, and it plays special to the ears. Described by the band as an ode to the halcyon days of childhood, youthful imagination and carefree-ness, the story obviously struck a chord with audiences, and the song absolutely blindsided the charts upon release.
‘The Wonderwhy (Hidden Track)’ – My Love Is Cool (2015)
If there was any doubt at the beginning of My Love Is Cool that Wolf Alice aren’t masters of storytelling, then album closer ‘The Wonderwhy’ will disavow you of it. A sprawling jam coming in at just shy of seven minutes, the song grows as it plays out, stretching and yawning at first before exploding into a full sprint – then pausing, then exploding over and over again. Indeed, so unique is the track that the band created a new word just to name it.
Vocalist Ellie Rowsell has explained in detail the meaning of the expansive story, one that harks back to her days as a teenager, struggling with the slings and arrows of teenage-hood. There’s an air of mystery behind the track, though, put forward with intent as Rowsell ponders questions throughout. Just like ‘Bros’ was strategically placed to reel in listeners, ‘The Wonderwhy’ was committed to the album’s closing track as more of a question mark than a full stop. Fortunately, in 2016 Wolf Alice shared a deluxe version of My Love Is Cool, rammed with even more tracks, giving us even more to sink our teeth into after the sonic adventure that is ‘The Wonderwhy’
‘Visions Of A Life’ – Visions Of A Life (2017)
In the closing moments of Visions Of A Life, you’ll find the title track, yet another sonic epic from the band that clocks almost eight minutes of runtime – and not a second of it is wasted. Driven by thick riffage and pounding drums, ‘Visions Of A Life’ is a hazy, sluggish baller, brought to life by a hauntingly sweet vocal line from Rowsell. Broken up into roughly three different parts, the song tells the story of the human condition, and the ebb and flow of moods and feelings that come with it.
Ranging from an almost zen-like calm to searing anxiety, ‘Visions Of A Life’ is equal parts chest-tightening and relieving – truly a masterstroke from Wolf Alice in terms of storytelling, composition and production. Recorded in many parts without the use of a click-track, there’s a wild energy within ‘Visions Of A Life’, almost as if it could buck you off at any time. It’s more a journey than a listening experience – you’d be best advised to hold on tight.
‘Play The Greatest Hits’ – Blue Weekend (2021)
‘Play The Greatest Hits’, nestled within the middle section of this year’s Blue Weekend record at track #7. Coming in at under three minutes, it’s the shortest track on the album, yet packs the biggest punch. Scrappy, rude and aggressive, ‘Play The Greatest Hits’ is a rough-and-tumble slide of punk-rock all about losing yourself in the sheer volume of music. Whether it’s to drown out the of sadness or remorse or just an excuse to get the limbs flailing, ‘Play The Greatest Hits’ is a jam we can all get down with.
‘Lipstick On Glass’ (Live At The Union Chapel) – Blue Weekend (2021)
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, location is everything – not just in property, but art as well. Wolf Alice’s recent live performance at the UK’s iconic Union Chapel is all the evidence we need to mount this claim. The performance was the fourth and final of the recent Jim Beam: Welcome Sessions series, and is an immutable argument in favour of the wonder and magic of live music. The performance follows Rowsell as she bounces her numbing vocals throughout the centuries-old building – that itself doubling as another instrument, or band member even, as opposed to just a venue.
The album version of ‘Lipstick On The Glass’ is no less magical – delicate, but far from fragile. The track is cold, yet somehow comforting; a story of reconnecting and reconciling in the wake of betrayal. But this isn’t a defeat or a surrender – it’s a stern, sober-eyed warning to not fuck up again.