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Album Review: Circa Waves - What's It Like Over There?


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Circa Waves' frontman found scribbled-down ideas that he wrote whilst intoxicated and sleep-deprived when touring and felt detached from them. Like the album title What's Is Like Over There?, Circa Waves' slightly disconnected perspective attempts to re-connect to the lyrics, but also to listeners.

Image Credit: Press

Despite being written in America, the album was actually recorded in Liverpool - it is as though the band is viewing themselves within a mirror that spans across time and places. This is Circa Waves' third album, incorporating their shift from their stereotypical indie-rock style to a less clearly-defined style seen in their last album Different Creatures. Despite being slightly out of cusp, it is constantly moving in flux. With its themes of travelling and nostalgia, alongside with the more personal relationships, the album seeks sources of escapism by reaching out to the vast distance of "over there".

'Sorry I'm Yours' introduces a muffled and bass-heavy style, followed by grungy, staccato electric guitar in the verses that are prompted by drums. The simple, fragmented guitar links to the "home is where your head lies" mentality. The second verse builds up with picked guitar, desperation heaved into the question: "Are you going to save me?" then dropped into the more stripped-down sections that lack response to the target. The dependency depicted in the lyrics is split between two states: mind and music. This is similar to the section in 'Saviour' with open chords and a tambourine-style drumbeat, followed by a guitar twang that breaks into the amplified chorus; this track also speaks of dependency, in a more urgent sense with its sprint-paced wish to "run until I die".

'Times Won't Change Me' has a jangly, higher melody dragged forward by lower root notes using a honky-tonk piano. Despite its walking tempo, the addition of lapping drum-beats and harmonies provides a charge behind it to "cut the corners" with its anthemic qualities. The repetition of "now" falling lower in pitch surfaces the concept of the word as something real by confronting it. Its key change represents a transcendence of time, with its repetition of "times won't change me now", and the band's individuality. 

Circa Waves include a breadth of cinematic scope in the album. 'Movies' is an idyllic, electric-drumbeat pumped tune. Interlinking with the album title, it is all about watching something from an external perspective, whilst also wanting to be caught up within it. The fascination with this results in comparing reality "just like" in the movies. 'Movies' references the title of the 1955 American film Rebel Without a Cause, which focuses on teenagers torn between emotions which results in destruction. This partially connects with the track 'Be Somebody Good', focusing on conflicts of being moral and peer-pressure with raucous guitar and punchy drums.

Throughout, Circa waves seem to sculpt fiction into reality through the medium of the film world, especially within 'Me, Myself, and Hollywood'. The concept of two conjoined personal pronouns "Me, Myself" places emphasis upon an individual in isolation to the larger place of Hollywood. Its section with an acoustic guitar is intimate - a moment of singularity where the cinema is in darkness with moments of light.

A few tracks from the album interestingly focus upon farewell gestures. 'The Way We Say Goodbye' is a take-off into the future choosing to not "look back in time". The modes of escapism listed throughout the album are boxed back into transience with "music fading" and "the last pages". 'Passport' particularly encompasses many forms of departure in a "goodbye to the good life"; a large-scale farewell signalling a change from a past identity. The track is dominated by high piano chords and synthesisers, as opposed to most of the bass-led songs on the album, highlighting Circa Waves' diversity within the album and a change from their predominant indie-rock style.

What's It Like Over There? is an imaginary, self-reflective album seeking both escapism and adventure. With the experimentation of its mixture of piano, drumbeats, and variation of guitar between jangly twangs and stripped-down sections of riffs, it breaks past the broader boundaries of classic rock with intimate themes such as self-improvement and nostalgia. Some of the tracks, such as 'Movies', retain their usual light-hearted melodies; yet, the album as a whole has much more to scrutinise in its search for the bigger picture.  

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