Review by Lindsey Craun.
After attracting attention with their debut self-titled album in 2008 and three EPs to follow, English dance punk group Friendly Fires are finally releasing a much-anticipated sophomore full-length, Pala, later this month. With growing support and a three-year buildup comes a heap of pressure to live up to their acclaimed debut, though Friendly Fires managed to stand up to the test.
The 11-track album was recorded over a 12 months, and was inspired by chart hits from the 1980s-1990s period. Indeed, the nostalgic influence is clear. The album emits a constant thriving ‘80s dance vibe, which, though typical of the group’s previous work, is perhaps even stronger on Pala. The first track, “Live Those Days Tonight,” is an upbeat, euphoric-sounding track filled with funky piano chords, electronic synths and blissful lyrics. It’s easy to see why the five-minute groove was chosen as the first single released from the album. “Blue Cassette” was also made available to download before the album’s release. This song starts out with real tape sound effects and a slower pace, but eventually builds up to a full-out drum-driven epic chorus. It would act as the perfect club song, and is likely to nestle its way into your mind for a lengthy stay. “Running Away” is particularly electronic-sounding, and its repetitive, hypnotizing lyrics. Along with the first two songs, Friendly Fires released “Hawaiian Air” for download. This song, titled appropriately, adds an optimistic, tropical element to their synthesized sound. It’s atmospheric vocals overlap pulsating beats and rhythms. The fifth song on the album, “Hurting,” is a bit slower with a touch of funk fused in. Its lyrics are somewhat deeper than the blissful words of its preceding songs, offering an overall compelling track.
The album’s title track starts out with chirping birds that introduce an ultra slow, smooth melody that’s a welcome break from the high-energy string of songs leading up to it. “Pala” is filled with shimmering melodies and ethereal soundscapes that build up to a powerful pinnacle toward the end. “Show Me Lights” returns to a harmonious mood with glimmering arrangements and heavy percussion. “Pull Me Back to Earth” is a really cool song that stands out among the rest as it highlights what Friendly Fires does best—fun, get-up-and-dance electronica. The last two songs, “Chimes” and “Helpless,” sum up the album with rich, heavily layered arrangements that are bound to get you up, moving and feeling as euphoric as the lyrics you’re listening to. Overall, it’s safe to say that Pala was worth the wait.
Listen to “Live Those Days Tonight” below: