Palace have always been a band imbued with promise.
Two studio albums – 2016’s debut ‘So Long Forever’ and 2019 follow up ‘Life After’ – encapsulated this, with indie rooted songwriting that sought out something different, more dramatic, more theatrical. Constructed during lockdown and beyond, third album ‘Shoals’ finds Palace eclipsing those aims, a 12 tracks song cycle that deals with identity, grief, and the stubborn path forwards. At times gloriously, evocatively beautiful, it’s a record whose ambition finally meets those early promises head-on.
Crisp, languid opener ‘Never Said It Was Easy’ lays out the band’s hopes – gilded harmonies and soothing melodies, it seems to break your heart in a quite effortless fashion. ‘Shame On You’ is more bruising, and up-front, while the stuttering electronics of ‘Fade’ recall New Order at their most incisive.
In terms of sheer songwriting prowess, Palace aim towards the classic. The fluttering guitars of ‘Give Me The Rain’ recall (early) Band Of Horses, or even The Maccabees at their most beatific. The heavenly ‘Friends Forever’ is like a British counterpart to Whitney, it’s suggestion of space allowing the vocal’s final ascension.
A record with a surfeit of emotion, ‘Shoals’ has a very un-British like openness. ‘Lover (Don’t Let Me Down)’ is a song about the risk inherent when falling in love, while the riveting title track utilises vocal techniques that wouldn’t be out of place on, say, a Frank Ocean record.
A wonderfully immersive experience, ‘Shoals’ matches incisive lyricism to gloriously beautiful world-building. Undoubtedly their best record to date, it finds Palace asserting themselves in ways they’ve always suggested were possible.
Words: Robin Murray
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