Known for their nervy, melodic indie rock, Britain's Circa Waves first gained buzz in the 2010s with hooky singles like "Get Away" and "Stuck in My Teeth." Centered on lead singer/songwriter Kieran Shudall, the band earned favorable comparisons to the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, and the Vaccines even before they hit the Top Ten with their debut, 2015's Young Chasers. Without shying away from their influences, the band has matured, and albums like 2017's Different Creatures and 2019's What's It Like Over There? showcase their deepening maturity and knack for crafting their own distinctively infectious, post-punk anthems. Circa Waves was formed in Liverpool in May 2013 by guitarist and singer Shudall, who had decided to "knuckle down" and commit fully to music after spending years in a succession of no-hope garage bands. After writing a batch of songs and putting some demos online, he recruited second guitarist Joe Falconer, bassist Sam Rourke, and drummer Sian Plummer (replaced by Colin Jones in 2015), and the band undertook a few short tours of the U.K. and Europe. Their melodic, propulsive rock sound, heavily inspired by the Strokes and also often compared to the Vaccines, was well-received by audiences, and such a buzz built around them that they were soon offered a deal with Transgressive Records, erstwhile home of Foals, the Subways, and Mystery Jets. Their debut single, the double-A-side "Get Away"/"Good for Me," was released in December 2013 and was almost immediately hailed the "Hottest Record in the World" by taste-making BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe. On the heels of that first wave of excitement, Circa Waves released their debut full-length album, Young Chasers, on Virgin/EMI in 2015. Buoyed by singles like "T-Shirt Weather," and "Stuck in My Teeth," the album reached the Top Ten of the U.K. albums chart and paved the way for a series of well-attended live shows, including a sold-out date at London's O2 Academy Brixton. The reception they received for their debut instilled the band with a greater sense of confidence, and as a result they returned to the studio almost immediately after touring; with their renewed vigor they created a heavier, beefier sophomore record, 2017's Different Creatures. Produced by Alan Moulder, the album also fared well, hitting number 11 on the U.K. album chart, and spawning the singles "Wake Up" and "Fire That Burns." The band's third full-length, What's It Like Over There?, arrived in 2019 and included the single "Movies." It again found the band working with Moulder embracing a more nuanced pop sophistication. In early 2020, Circa Waves returned with their fourth studio album, Sad Happy, which featured production by singer Shudall and mixing from Matt Wiggins and Dan Grech-Marguerat. Prior to the album's full release, it was split in half and issued on two separate EPs, Happy and Sad.
© John D. Buchanan /TiVo
© John D. Buchanan /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 5, 2019 | Prolifica Inc.
On 2019's What's It Like Over There? Liverpool's Circa Waves continue to develop their indie rock sound with a collection of passionate anthems that trade some of their nervous, sugary energy for a more nuanced maturity. Once again recorded with Alan Moulder, the band purportedly felt somewhat freed up on their third album to explore sounds outside of the kinetic guitar rock that made 2015's Young Chasers and 2017's Different Creatures so compelling. Certainly, there are several songs here that fall outside of the band's usual style. The soulful "Times Won't Change Me Now," with its repeated, bluesy riff and gospel backing vocals, wouldn't sound out of place as the underpinning for a '90s hip-hop track. Less far afield but still somewhat of a departure is the piano-driven "Passport," in which singer Kieran Shudall evokes the literate, sweetly melodic '60s pop of Harry Nilsson. That said, the slight shift in approach is less about the band's sound and more about a move toward subtlety in songwriting, with an emphasis on atmosphere and a dark sense of emotion. Tracks like "Sorry I'm Yours," "Me, Myself, and Hollywood," and "Motorcade" are visceral, minor-key gems with a slow-burn, post-punk energy that brings to mind a cross between '80s Giorgio Moroder and '90s Garbage. Particularly compelling is the infectious single "Movies," which finds Circa Waves embracing the soundtrack-ready dance-rock of the Killers, and finding their own pop sweet-spot in the process. What's It Like Ove There? sounds like Circa Waves are testing their longevity and aiming for a wider audience, and that's not a bad thing. © Matt Collar /TiVo
Alternative & Indie - Released March 10, 2017 | Virgin EMI
Two years on from their youthfully nervy debut, Liverpool's Circa Waves are showing signs of an assured maturity on their sophomore album, 2017's confidently delivered Different Creatures. On 2015's aptly titled Young Chasers, Circa Waves lead singer/songwriter Kieran Shudall cooed and sneered his way through a wave of kinetic post-punk that seemed born as much out of teen angst and a boyish enthusiasm as his obvious love of influences like Arctic Monkeys and the Strokes. While still clearly carrying a torch for early-2000s neo-post-punk, Shudall and his Circa Waves bandmates are now road-hardened tour vets, indie rock prodigal sons returned home to reconnect with old mates over a pint, figure out how their relationships went so awry, and contextualize the insanity of the past few years. It's a vibe perhaps best expressed on the yearning "Without You," in which Shudall sings, "Finally getting some, thank god for home/So, shit food and sleeping pills/Cheap drinks and cheaper thrills/Oh pour me, pour me/And I and I, I will lead this parade/And I will travel for days to get to you." It's a catchy song, as are many on Different Creatures, reminiscent of their previous efforts but with an added layer of muscular guitar fuzz that brings to mind the bombastic '90s sludge of the Pixies crossed with the passionate alt-rock swoon of The Bends-era Radiohead. It's probably no coincidence that, prior to working with bands like the Killers and Interpol, Different Creatures producer Alan Moulder made his name working on albums by such alt-rock icons as Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nine Inch Nails. With Moulder at the helm, Circa Waves deliver a varied set of driving anthems that do recapture much of the convergent energy of the '90s Brit-pop and alt-rock scenes. Without overwhelming you with a sense of déjà vu, cuts like "Out on My Own," "Stuck," and "Goodbye" are massively hooky blasts of guitar rock that subtly draw cues from both older acts like Smashing Pumpkins and similarly inclined contemporary bands like the Killers and Kings of Leon. Elsewhere, Shudall showcases his stylistic range on the John Lennon-esque acoustic ballad "Love's Run Out," and leavens the Killers/Kings of Leon influence with some Lindsey Buckingham-ish, Fleetwood Mac-level pop grandeur on the uber-catchy standout "Fire That Burns." Part of what makes Circa Waves so compelling is that they are able to match the sound of their influences while still believably making the results sound their own. They've grown into an assured rock entity, but they've retained their fundamental sense of working-class Liverpudlian blues. As Shudall sings on "Old Friends," "I can't believe I'm still up/I can't believe this conversation is still going/I need to really grow up/I drank so much I can't see straight son/What am I doing?" Ultimately, with Different Creatures, Circa Waves sound like they know exactly what they are doing. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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