The problem with making a second album is your first album. Should an artist keep the same style or revolutionise completely? Often either choice results in a backlash of mediocre review responses.
However, we find ourselves sat on the verge of the summer, about to roll joyously down the hill into festival season; the timing couldn’t be better for the sunny sounds of Friendly Fires to shine down upon their long-expecting public.
In terms of a summer soundtrack, the album doesn’t disappoint. Tracks like ‘Show Me Lights’ and ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ re-enter the same soothing soundscape as their self-titled debut album, full of layered-up atmospheric synths and relentless rapid cymbal-hitting.
Stand out tracks are ‘Blue Cassette’ and ‘True Love’, both of which beg for a sweaty tent of adoring fans to chant along to. These singalong-expecting tracks are few and far between though, and there’s no match for ‘Jump in the Pool’ to be found. Pala comes across like an album missing a hit single and can easily be listened to without paying any attention.
Particular low points are the chorus of ‘Hawaiian Air’ and the opening of ‘Hurting’. ‘Hawaiian Air’ disappoints due to lyricist Ed Macfarlane’s over simplistic approach, slowly repeating the two-word title of the track just doesn’t cut it compared to the memorable choruses of their past such as ‘On Board’ or ‘Kiss of Life’. The track ‘Hurting’ begins as an ache on the ears; far too Jamiroquai-esque to be considered even remotely cool.
Despite the low points, Friendly Fires have successfully bolstered their back-catologue with Pala and this will no doubt see a huge improvement in the depth and changeability of their live show, just in time for a run of festival appearances. Friendly Fires have retained their crown as kings of summery sounds, but they will need to experiment on their next record to gain any longevity.
Good: the inevitable euphoria this album will create live, particularly at festivals.
Bad: the forget-ability of the whole record, it’s difficult to recount any of the choruses about half an hour after listening.