Circa Waves’ debut album Young Chasers exists in the heat of the summer: smooth transitions from one laidback song to the next putting the listener in the mindset of sun-soaked afternoons, cotton clouds chasing down the endlessly blue line of the horizon. Repetitious but comforting, the album’s greatest strength lies in its genuine simplicity.

By contrast, Circa Waves’ newest release, Different Creatures, exists in harsh shadows.

Backed by aggressive harmonies and armed with pointed vocals, Different Creatures seems to be a complete rebranding of Circa Waves, trading in mellow for forceful. Even the two albums’ cover art are markedly dissimilar; Young Chasers’ coats fantastical imagery with hazy colors, while the harsh reds and blacks seen in Different Creatures brings to mind Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The album sets its tone right from the opening song, “Wake Up.” Rapid-fire electric guitar chords build with intensity then immediately dissolve to the lyrics “So, coming, tryna break my fall / leaving, spitting sticks and stones.” “Wake Up” is jarring and initiates a bleakness that is reflected throughout the rest of the album.

Through lead singer Kieran Shudall’s hopeless vocals and melodies wound tight with tension, songs “Goodbye” and “A Night On The Broken Tiles” are grating. And while the more placid components of songs — “Fire That Burns,” “Different Creatures” and “Out On My Own” — help to create brief moments of respite from surrounding high-energy tracks, they do nothing to shape the album overall.

Different Creatures is dense with similar-sounding songs, tightly packed with no real sense of purpose. It’s easy to get lost in the constant antagonism. 

Circa Waves created an album wrapped in cynicism; the grim lyrics and downhearted perspective of nearly every song construct impermeable layers of negativity. It’s startling, the pronounced dreariness of this album, and a bit forced.

With Different Creatures, there appears to be a conscious push to be more impacting. Young Chasers was decently successful but unoriginal. Its songs are pleasant and innocuous but hardly novel enough to make waves. Through their newest release, Circa Waves seems to strive to prove that it can break through the generic indie-rock label and compose something influential. However, in this drive to make a name for themselves, Circa Waves lost the authenticity that Young Chasers, in all its uninspired, conventional glory, reverberated with.

The songs in Different Creatures are brooding and gritty but unapproachable. The emotions it struggles to portray appear distant and difficult to connect with. The drive behind the bleak vocals and the pointed tempos is one that is empty of any actual emotion. In pushing for notability, Circa Waves conceived an album that is explosive but empty— a hollowed out shell that has only decorative value.

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