Album Review: Ward Thomas – Restless Minds

Restless Minds, the follow-up to debut album From Where We Stand (2014) and Cartwheels (2016), is Ward Thomas’ attempt to continue their progression as a genre-crossing duo. As leading lights in the UK country scene, alongside the likes of The Shires, Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, the 24-year-old twins from Liss in Hampshire, here present a 15 song album written in Nashville, London, and Hampshire.

Pulling together Cartwheels and Restless Minds, Ward Thomas have worked with previous collaborators Jessica Sharman, Rebekah Powell, and Martin Terefe, whilst also involving new writers who have a string of pop hits under their belts. As such, we hear fewer of the country songs that made Ward Thomas a success and more forays into pop.

As an introduction to the album, No Filter (the third single released from the record), is a song which looks at social media and how people try to match each other’s perfect, yet false lives. Living life through a lens and additional filters means that young people are attempting to keep up with an increasingly false version of themselves, let alone all the people around them. The pressure to conform to societal norms is well presented here as a warning.

Lead single Lie Like Me also addresses social media and the fake lives people lead through screens and is a biting indictment of the competition created between online personas, until you no longer believe your own lives, singing ‘I don’t even wanna buy what I’m selling. What am I selling, what am I, what am I?’

The country songs and ballads often feel more consistent in terms of writing and seem a more natural fit for Ward Thomas. The repeated social media takedowns end up feeling rather forced, especially given the admission from both Catherine and Lizzy that they spend a lot of time on social media, often portraying a perfect life themselves, and have now decided to enact a ‘No Scroll Sunday’ in order to regain time spent being stuck on social media.

Further themes on the album include anxiety, referenced in the song It’s Not Just Me. The juxtaposition of the foot-tapping beat and the lyrics, which tell of feeling as though you aren’t good enough, give the song an interesting approach. The more country cadence of Ward Thomas’ voices makes the song stand out. Changing, a more soulful offering on an album which otherwise wanders between country and pop, also stands out with strong vocals.

Delving further into the country-pop crossover area, Ward Thomas have a knack for producing well received music, as noted with Cartwheels being the first UK country album to hit number one in the UK. Following along the lines of Taylor Swift, Restless Minds goes further into pop whilst still holding onto the country roots that made the twin sisters from Hampshire a surprising country success. The team behind the album, having produced works for Shawn Mendes, Little Mix, Ed Sheeran, and Paloma Faith, make solid pop songs, which at 47 minutes sometimes feels a little like you’ve heard the same song twice. This works to good effect on No Filter and Ain’t That Easy, which have a similar chorus so draws parallels without feeling too repetitive. They also benefit from being early on in the 15 track selection.

With Restless Minds, fans will no doubt enjoy the more country tinged songs they have become accustomed to, whilst also listening with interest to the developing sound of Ward Thomas.

Ulrike Gotts