Irish born, Berlin based artist, Wallis Bird, has released six albums since 2007 and they have been met with critical acclaim garnering two Meteor Awards, Ireland’s annual music prize, most recently for Best Female Artist, and a prestigious 2017 German ‘Music Autoren Preis’ (music author prize). She has also been nominated for two Choice Music Prizes which is Ireland’s equivalent to the Mercury Prize and racked up over a thousand shows during the past decade, earning a reputation for her passionate and good humoured energy.
So, it is with real excitement that I listened to Wallis’s new release ‘What’s Wrong With Changing?’, a song that will act as a gateway to her seventh album ‘Hands’ which will be released on 27th May 2022. The song is described as a track that hones a deep mindfulness toward racism and learning to shed prejudices, a track that will urge us away from the perception of other and towards one.
Wallis describes the track thus:
“The song is about the milestones of my life: living in London, getting to know other cultures as a young person, to Ireland breaking free from State and Church and voting in gay marriage in such a stark Catholic Country. In my short life there have been huge changes and social structures have been dissolved and I have said over and over: what is wrong with changing, there is nothing in this world that is not changing, so I think let’s move with the change.”
Whilst the song is very forward thinking and topical in a world that moves towards a place where we are more tuned in to change, more tuned in to chipping away at the prejudices that exist in a bid to create a better place, it is musically inspired more retrospectively by the rhythms of Janet Jackson during her ‘Control’, ‘Rhythm Nation’ and ‘Janet’ days. The single is a hint at what will come with the new album which promises to be both joyous and curious.
Change is not a linear thing and each step towards change has to be step by step, chipping away at the structure of things that exist and Wallis is very keen that she, as an artist, tries to act as one of the steps, with her unapologetic and shamelessly unafraid musicality. The song is almost a sequel to her song ‘As The River Flows’ from 2019’s ‘Woman’ which celebrated migration and sought to “stand in awe and solidarity with migrants and fight racism in people and political agendas”, as Wallis told Songwriting Magazine at the time. With this new release, Wallis develops that thought process in an effort to “think more and understand others a little more; not to ‘other’ each other but to create the idea that we are all one”.
The new release also gives us the B-side, ‘Pretty Lies’, which brilliantly encapsulates the emotions we have felt during the pandemic. Wallis says: “it documents the silence and the beauty of hearing the birds for miles and miles at the beginning of the lockdown when there was no traffic and nobody was leaving their house. It moves from that into when things began reopening a little more. TRhis quiet, uneasy safety at the start develops into a spiral of unending possibilities. The end of this song expresses all of the possibilities of where we’re going from here”.
The two songs are perfectly linked by their story telling qualities with ‘What’s Wrong With Changing?’ acting almost as a social diary whilst ‘Pretty Lies’ is more about natural and emotional change with both moving very much to the now. As a pairing they perfectly illustrate the diversity of Wallis as an artist musically whilst brilliantly showcasing her almost poetic narration of society and emotion which pervades all of her music. If you’ve never heard Wallis before this release is a great place to start; if you’re already a fan then you will not be disappointed, indeed you’ll be excited to hear the album in May.
The album will be called ‘Hands’ and subtitled ‘Nine and a half songs for nine and a half fingers’. A reference to a childhood accident that left her with a damaged left hand. It will be an album that confronts themes of trust, alcohol abuse, stagnation, self-censorship and self-improvement. An album for the times delivered by an artist with a voice blessed with joy, curiosity and empathy. I can’t wait!