Album Review: Palace - 'Life After'

Just three years after releasing their debut album So Long Forever, London dwellers Palace have returned with their latest offering Life After. As with their first album, Life After explores themes of loss and separation, all with the maturity that initially surprised us on the debut, but now something we’ve come to expect from the three-piece.

Title track and opener Life After very much sets the pace: a track doused in heaviness, an ode to a lost friend or relative, yet delivered with a certain strength and courage that demands the listener’s attention. Unlike their previous work, there is clear confidence in their songwriting. Perhaps with other bands, the combination of dynamic build ups and the loss of a feel-good touch could become tedious – with Palace however, it’s immersive.

While the album demonstrates Palace’s well-established emotional side, Younger and Running Wild offers some respite. Despite the latter’s title, there is no descent into chaos with this track, yet it showcases the lads’ ability to write a more upbeat track to get heads nodding. While it may be guitar heavy, Leo’s soft vocals are not remotely overshadowed, resulting in what may be one of the most established tracks on the album.

Martyr is a further testament to the band’s natural song writing ability. Silky, slightly haunting vocals and plenty of reverb may be the recipe to write a Palace track nowadays, yet Martyr holds an intriguing catchiness and memorability to it, enhanced by a long, echo laden outro.

In a record which states so much more conviction than the last, one can only wonder what the next album holds. While Running Wild presents a guitar solo and album closer Heaven Up There begins with a smattering of electronics which Leo himself admitted he was originally hesitant about, the album is clean and crisp throughout, keeping Palace very much within their comfort zone. Even with these slight moments of respite, I’d like to see Palace exhibit their carefree side in records to come. They have the ability, the fan base, and are clearly growing in confidence and conviction, and thus should not fear experimenting.

Over the past few years, Palace have earned their stripes in the world of melancholic indie-rock – gradually playing larger venues, longer tour circuits, and being slowly pushed up festival line-ups onto bigger and better stages. In our conversation with singer Leo, he acknowledged that this progression was never the intention – it’s always been about him and his mates making good music. When artists say that fame and fortune is just a bonus for doing what they love, it’s sometimes a message hard to take at face value, but Palace are far from the cliché. This album truly captures the essence of family and personality, and they are so damn likeable.

Palace have once again put their hearts and minds out there with this record, and it will no doubt be well received by long-standing fans and new members of the Palace family. If you are a stranger to Palace, Life After is the outstretched arm to bring you in.