At their best, Friendly Fires crystallize the escapist thrills of summertime, dancing, and parties into a fizzy synergy of indie, dance, post-punk, and dream pop. They do this even more effortlessly on their second album, Pala, recruiting producer Paul Epworth to help them couch their incredibly immediate pop hooks in intriguing sounds. These songs sound far bigger than Friendly Fires', and bolder too, with a more consolidated approach that shows how much more confident the band is here. Previously, it seemed like Friendly Fires were trying on as many styles as possible, but when “Blue Cassette” mixes filter disco softness with kinetic dance rock, it feels completely natural. Even bigger leaps forward arrive with “Hawaiian Air,” a one-way ticket to summer that sets breezy harmonies atop a lilting synth hook that somehow makes the drums sound even bouncier and more impatient to have fun, and on “Hurting,” which melds old-school soul and disco touches into a sexy departure for the band. These songs, along with “Show Me Lights,” grasp the heights that Friendly Fires' debut only glimpsed. Though Pala's songs are almost all climax, they have some subtlety too, like the way a clicking camera drives the beat on the languid title track, or the way “Pull Me Back to Earth” gradually transforms from ethereal dance rock to bubbling soul-pop midway through. Ever the hedonists, Friendly Fires can make a break-up song sound like a celebration, and they don't just fall in and out of love; they chase it (“Chimes”) or drown in its aftermath (“Helpless”). A headlong rush of an album, Pala is accomplished, bold, and very, very danceable; everything Friendly Fires' debut promised and more.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares