The follow-up to 2016 debut ‘So Long Forever’ finds London’s Palace in solemn mood. They describe ‘Life After’ as “an album about loss and a manual to moving on,” referring to broken relationships and the forging of new bonds. But while they claim it is a “deeply optimistic” album born of “hope” it’s not exactly a feel-good record.
Palace’s songwriting is mature and poignant, and pervasively sombre - as clearly signposted by the titles of the opening and closing tracks, ‘Life After’ and ‘Heaven Up There’. Both provide standout moments, with the former’s grandiose strings providing a foil to Leo Wyndham’s yearning lyrics: “after she’s gone I’m fragile like porcelain, I’ve been writing this song to help you breathe again.” The latter, meanwhile, floats through dynamic peaks and extended plateaus for a brave seven minutes.
There are some moments of respite to the heavy atmosphere. The pulsing snare and clean guitar arpeggios on ‘Younger’ provide a brighter alternative to some of the album’s more lumbering moments. ‘Running Wild’, meanwhile, is the most carefree offering on the record - a mid-tempo pop nugget that even features a guitar solo at its climax.
Ultimately ‘Life After’ feels bogged down at times by it’s laboured pace and all-too-epic dynamic builds. There’s light and darkness in the mix, but the balance feels tenuous.