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Wallis Bird erupts on her new album Woman. Her sixth record, socially conscious and emotionally charged, guides the listener through an almost conceptual thirty-seven minutes, as she executes eleven tracks of raw, effervescent excellence. At times, Woman is an art installation projected through sound. It’s a stark listen in places, but such honesty is to be applauded. Woman details a range of complex issues with lyrical prowess beyond mere angst.
As intended, the subject matter is nearly overwhelming emotionally. You certainly won’t find escapism from the horrors of the modern world here. Instead, clever songwriting, melodic prowess, and even catchy hooks portray these horrors for the listener.
The striking ‘As The River Flows’ is one hell of an opener. The track is dedicated to Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee whose body was photographed on a Turkish beach in 2015. This is the naked truth of immigration and Bird offers timely social commentary, heavy with sentiment.
Following the statement of ‘As The River Flows’ is the even more incendiary ‘Grace’. This song poignantly tackles Donald Trump’s rise to the pedestal of propaganda. Of course, this is not just one woman’s view—it’s a widely-held consensus, fearlessly portrayed through wonderful soundscapes, echoing with empathy.
‘Life Is Long’ is an upbeat piece of minimalist work, alive with Bird’s dominant voice. The track looks at the precious moments in life, memories made in youth, and how they hold meaning in adulthood.
‘Love Respect Peace’ is not just an affirmation of the record’s intent, but a mission statement from Wallis Bird. Executed with a soulful swelling throughout, the gospel style brings out the best of her range. ‘Woman Oh Woman’ is a declaration of love—a love for femininity, for the female form as a higher entity of worship. A bluesy telling, with a dramatically cast, transcendent chorus, holds it all together.
One of the most potent pieces on the album is ‘Salve’, a song confronting the dark side of social media, wrapped in a wave of soulful sweetness. Punchy guitar patterns, somewhat reminiscent of the late Prince, drive the track. ‘Salve’, despite an abrupt ending, is a standout of the collection—a cracking tune.
The hypnotic melody of ‘Brutal Honesty’ is, perhaps, the catchiest on the collection. On the surface, it’s not too thematically heavy, but the mood is intense, honest—encompassing Bird’s intention for the overall tone of Woman. The slow-paced ‘Time It Is Not Waiting’ is a mesmerising display, highlighting her love of gospel and soul. Following is ‘I Know What I’m Offering’, a perfect example of Bird’s lyrical nous. On the joyful ‘That’s What Life is For’, upbeat rhythms conjure images of a club in New Orleans or Memphis.
Woman closes with the same energetic intent that opened proceedings. The angelic-voiced ‘Repeal’ takes its subject from the recent abortion referendum. It’s a heavy subject, but a celebratory track, charting success and much-needed change for Ireland. The referendum remains divisive for some, but Wallis resonates with those on the same page, as in the opening line:
“Let me decide what’s good for me”
The independent singer has stated that Woman is her best work in years—I tend to agree. Bird’s knack for reflecting on harrowing, deeply personal themes with such energetic ease is inspiring. Regardless of your own views, there is no denying that Wallis Bird has the talent to enrapture even the most stone-hearted.
Woman is available on September 27 and you can also read our recent interview with Wallis Bird here.