Album review: Ultrasound // Palace


It is hard to describe the feeling of the world changing. I guess it is always changing, due to both man and divine intervention, sometimes mixed with subconscious decisions like choosing a different place to put your house keys in. It always ends up with you not being able to find them anymore. And a series of events are then consequently activated like you crying on the bedroom floor because it was your only pair or unexpectedly finding them in the fridge. I guess all of this is to say that the smallest changes in the balance of life and the world, the tiniest additions, are often the ones that trigger a domino effect of emotions and bigger, wider modifications. And the release of Palace’s new album Ultrasound has cracked the balance slightly. Everything feels different.

When listening to this record for the first time, I was not expecting to see the images of the sounds right in front of me. Right from the first song – ‘When Everything Was Lost’ – the pounding drums and cinematic strings and synths, I was transported in a different dimension. A dimension filled with hope yet questions, which the rest of the album will hopefully give answers to. In a The National-esque style, Leo Wyndham sings ‘I dreamt it was different, so much I was different’ before exploding in a train of introspection reflecting on missing people and how much things feel worse now. The world feels worse now. 

There are two distinctive phases of Ultrasound, the first eight tracks interrupted by the instrumental ‘Cocoon’ and the last four. There is an abyssal difference between the two stages, almost symbolising the various stages of grief. Grief, like many other emotions, is driven by nostalgia and loss, just like this record. The second song, ‘Son’, is probably one of the most heartbreaking ones among the 12. The first line is ‘I think it’s been a while since they called you son’, and both the lyricism and sounds gradually grow into a reassuring hymn of understanding, as the chorus dictates ‘Hold on, you must be hurting. I’m thinking of you now…’ and how nice is it to be finally heard. Ultrasound’s final objective is understanding, offering a shoulder to cry on, for both those who need it and for those who don’t yet know they do. Because we all need to be heard, once in a while. I love it when music is real and authentic and vulnerable. Letting also the listeners be vulnerable at the same time. 

With the main single, ‘Bleach’, Palace establish themselves as the indie band we all know and love. But, like most leading singles, it is not the strongest soldier on the album. However, Wyndham’s vocals heighten its value massively and, alongside the bright guitars they allow it to remain in the listener’s memory. After another few memorable moments, such as  ‘Nightmares & Ice Cream’ and ‘Rabid Dog’, the most powerful act of the album begins. Initiated by wholesome ‘Make You Proud’, Palace tug at their listeners’ heartstrings with positive sonic and lyrical resolutions. For instance, in the romantic seventh track ‘Inside my Chest’, Wyndham serenades a lover saying that he’d ‘do it all again’ if it was with them. One of the top-3 tracks on Ultrasound is ‘Love is a Precious Thing’, which also takes quite an experimental turn with electronic pounding synths and percussions. ‘We could be anyone if you love me like I, you’, Wyndham sings before introducing one of the best-structured choruses on the whole record. The repetitiveness of it only makes it catchier and, therefore, more effective. What a hopeful, nostalgic and introspective epiphany, that ‘we had it all in the palm of our hands’, as the singer is humble enough to realise that we should be passionate about things because love is all we have left. 

Although, the best is always left for last. ‘Goodnight Farewell’, I am not exaggerating it, is probably one of the most incredible tracks of the last five years. Similar to their second record Life After’s closing track, this song carries all the weight of the unspoken words and emotions this record failed to mention before. And how glad I am. With a mixture of intense and prolonged guitar chords, 80s futuristic synths and cacophonous violins reminiscent of the chaotic but soul-sucking ‘All I Need’ by Radiohead, the almost 6-minute-long work establishes itself as the beginning of the end. The beginning of an album which made me cry, laugh and dance. With the first part of the song begging the listener to ‘just remember your inner child, just remember that’s who you are’, Wyndham then juxtaposes his lyrics to the second half of the song. Indeed, Palace’s frontman assures his listeners that, in the event we lost sight of our identity, he will always be there to remember it for us: ‘I will never forget who you were’. 

A baby crying its first cry, a mother hearing the heartbeat for the first time, such powerful sounds. Such ultra-sounds. The interpretations are endless but how many chances are there for the title of Palace’s fourth studio album to signify both a sneak peak into the first moments of life with an ultrasound, and also all the ultra, super-sounds we are surrounded by every day? A baby crying its first cry, a mother hearing the heartbeat for the first time, someone crying on their bedroom floor because they have misplaced their apartment’s only pair of keys. The world feels different now.

Words by Silvia Pellegrino

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