Album Review: White Lies – ‘Friends’

British post-punk power trio White Lies are back this year with a monumental record. Following the release of 2013’s ‘Big TV’, which happened to be one of my favourite albums […]

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British post-punk power trio White Lies are back this year with a monumental record. Following the release of 2013’s ‘Big TV’, which happened to be one of my favourite albums of that year, ‘Friends’ is a refreshing take on modern indie music, drawing influence from electronica and iconic synth pop outfits.

First track ‘Take is Out on Me’, with it’s groovy bass, juicy electronic hook, and explosive chorus, is a near perfect start and a certified anthem straight off the bat. Harry McVeigh’s deep, haunting vocals contrast fantastically with this upbeat tune echoing the gloomy virility of Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen. If you start listening to the lyrics you realise that it’s all about self-destruction, loneliness, and masochism…but it’s hard to notice that over how catchy the music is. In my opinion, this is exactly what makes a great indie track, this perfectly balanced bleakness combined with cheerful melodies.

The bittersweet ‘Morning in LA’ is a continuation of this theme. Slowing down from the punchy opening, this song laments growing up, losing friends, and isolation. With poignant vocals and a fantastic synth encasing, its a song to be played at 3am while looking out of the window and pondering all of the change in your adult life.

The following tracks ‘Hold Back Your Love’, ‘Is My Love Enough’ and ‘Don’t Want to Feel It All’ carry beats that are begged to be danced to, despite the mournful lyrical content. Synth pop laced with disco shimmer, they are a musical equivalent of flickering neon signs over a mirrored dance floor. Powerful and memorable, these might be chart hits if music like this was still mainstream. Unfortunately, we aren’t living in the 80s.

The unexpected rock and roll aspect of ‘Summer Didn’t Change a Thing’ compliments the euphoric synth hook in the chorus; electronic sounds are replaced by crunching guitars and crashing drums. The emotional impact of this song is intense, and for all the sinister synth it is the use of guitar that rallies my feelings, crashing through the neon lights and into the harsh midnight air, breathing clearly for this first time. The euphoria is bottled and smashed quickly with following track ‘Swing’, a dark counterbalance with the blackened synths you might find on a particularly ominous Depeche Mode track. This dark lullaby refers to dissatisfaction and disinterest, reigning in the emotion of the previous song as the speaker becomes stifled and accepts his lonely life.

The final track, ‘Don’t Fall’, is the unforeseen and unrivalled gem of the album. The tempo drops, a choir of angelic voices back the slow drone of McVeigh’s laments, ‘It’s hard to stay when all my friends have gone away’. Its the final hurrah of the story, the final call for intimacy as the neon lights start to dim.

‘Friends’ is a record full of splendidly calculated contradiction; cheerful melodies encasing the most pessimistic situations, glimmers of hope set to dark synth beats and relentless bass. These poignant musings about the natural change of relationships past make for an enthralling story and a fantastic record. They’ve done it again, this is one of my favourite albums of 2016. Well done, White Lies.

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Alex Inkley

About Alex Inkley

Since graduating from The University of Leeds, Alex has had stints writing for Champion Up North, Time Out Leeds, and has contributed to the CTR Travel Writing Program. Now a freelance journalist, they enjoy blogging about all things arts + culture related.