By Harry Sullivan (@radiohedge)
Liverpool-based Circa Waves teased their first single way back in 2013, leaving it another two years before releasing their first LP Young Chasers, which turned out to be one of the indie highlights of the year and left them with a lot of work to do on their follow up.
The band dropped their first single Wake Up back in late 2016, and it was evident from there that there had been some serious maturation of their sound from the almost cute, summery riffs of their debut. The opening guitar sound, more reminiscent of heavier alternative bands, is certainly more booming. Their second single, Fire That Burns, released a few weeks later, cemented this idea, turning out to be a more open Maccabees-esque, with some definite emotional depth contained in the lyrics.
Their full album comprises of these first two singles, then nine others of a style that gets progressively more varied – a sign of definitive development between LP1 and LP2. Though not quite ‘experimental’, there is a clear trialing of both heavier and softer styles; Goodbye growls like a Queens of the Stone Age song; while the heart-wrenchingly beautiful acoustic composition Love’s Run Out acts as a definitive change of pace on the rollercoaster of an album. Similarly, the addition of a string arrangement to Out On My Own certainly adds to the evidence of increased skill and versatility as you listen through the tracks.
There are, however, points on this LP that display very little change of sound; tracks such as Crying Shame wouldn’t seem out of place on Young Chasers. The same would apply to the title track, Different Creatures, if you ignore the slight unease of some plunky guitar work.
Holistically, unlike their last release (and most releases by most bands for that matter), this album is a lot stronger in its second half than first – definite highlights are Without You, which has more energy and Old Friends, which takes the chilled sixties vibe first hinted at in Deserve This from Young Chasers and adding some emotive brass instrumentation to make for a very special album closer.
Lyrically this album is pretty angsty, with a less rose-tinted nostalgia and more gritty realism – certainly a ‘different creature’ to Young Chasers in that sense, if you excuse the awful pun – with the ‘explicit’ mark sitting next to four of the eleven track names on iTunes. Once you take into account the addition of the album cover, you’d think they’ve morphed into an emo punk band!
There is, in general, much less claustrophobia to this album – the individual parts now have space to breathe, and thus develop creatively. The drums and bass have a much cleaner production element to them, however there is disappointingly a lot less new variation in style compared to the guitar work and Kieran Shudall’s vocals, though maybe that can be left to their next LP.
Overall, you get the impression this album was written to listen to during a tough day of work rather than a relaxed day at the beach like Young Chasers – and to perform at a larger venue too. Their sound will undoubtedly fill it because if their live shows ooze the newfound confidence of Different Creatures, they will do a spectacular job.