Ever since Live Those Days Tonight was released as a web sampler for Pala back at the end of March, I've been looking forward to Friendly Fires' sophomore release with baited breath. So I was delighted to see it drop through my letterbox yesterday morning, and genuinely excited to slip the disc into my stereo shortly afterwards.
Everything about this album seems designed to make it the soundtrack to the summer 2011, just as the band's self-titled debut was for many early adopters in 2008. From the colourful cover art (parrots are very 2011), to the increasingly funky and dancable direction of the music within, Pala is going to be hard to knock off my iPod until the sun goes away again in autumn.
Too many high points to mention almost, Pala is full of individually brilliant tracks, but if there is a criticism it's that none really stand out from the crowd, and that as a piece, the album can seem a little one paced.
The good news though is that the rest of the album more than lives up to the promise of Live Those Days Tonight. The bass-heavy funk of tracks like Running Away and True Love made those personal favourites, recalling vintage A Certain Ratio or maybe another of their Factory label-mates (Section 25 perhaps, from whom Friendly Fires got their name).
Second single Hawaiian Air is another winner, but I might perhaps have chosen Show Me The Lights with it's broken, post-dubstep sounds as staking a more obvious claim to the musical zeitgeist.
Pala may not turn out to be a blockbusting overnight hit (pre-release it is currently sitting at 15 in Amazon's album chart), but much like Friendly Fires before it, seems destined to be a slow burning success based on critical acclaim, word of mouth and a likely string of successful singles. And for once here is an album that will deserve every sale, every bit of praise it receives. Pala is one of the finest albums released so far in 2011, and one that I recommend to anyone who likes music, dancing, summer, or fun.
Final Score: 91%