Wallis Bird - Hands (Mount Silver Records / Virgin Records)
Photo credit: Tobias Ortmann

Wallis Bird – Hands (Mount Silver Records / Virgin Records)

Wallis Bird has released her new album Hands and it is arguably her most personal album to date.  A closer look at the black and white photograph of a hand on the album cover reveals something is out of the ordinary.  In the shadows there’s a stump where the little finger should be, and the other fingers also don’t seem quite right.  This is Wallis’s hand and having spent much of her life trying to exist despite its restrictions, she’s reached a point of acceptance that it many ways it’s always been vital to her lived reality.  Hands documents her subsequent process of change and its consequences, turning her view inward.  This album is also known as Nine and a Half Songs for Nine and a Half Fingers, which perhaps speaks volumes about her positivity.  Yes the issues here include alcohol abuse, stagnation, self-censorship and self-improvement, but do not be put off.  This is not an album full of melancholy but rather a celebration of life.

Opener ‘Go’ gives us a sense of liberation.  The lyrics “I’ll never move on if I don’t go now” are simple but say so much about acceptance, of letting go and of having to release the past in order to move forward. Closing track ‘Pretty Lies’ bursts forth with positivity and hope looking forward free of many of the burdens of the past.

And within this album there are gems aplenty.  Previous single ‘What’s Wrong With Changing’ still takes my breath away.  Defiant and strong it is unwavering at its look at the world and her place within it.  With rhythms reminiscent of Janet Jackson it is a track which is thoroughly entertaining and you hear something different in the lyrics on every listen.

I Lose Myself Completely’ revels in Trevor Horn’s work and also has a driving rhythm at its core while showcasing Wallis’s vocal talents.  There is a real 80s vibe here which is a complement, and who wouldn’t want to lose themselves completely on the dancefloor to this track!  While the humour in ‘No Pants Dance‘ with its nod to sonic Prince is a delight.  Written after witnessing neighbours celebrating lockdown’s end, the lyrics leave little to the imagination “drop your pants come on let’s dance“.

Elsewhere ‘Aquarius’ begins with the swishing tide and continues taking us on a journey of hopes and desires for life, with dreamy chord changes and a pace which reminds of a train clattering along.  With an uplifting vocal it speaks of a future full of love and joy.

There are quieter moments too including ‘I’ll Never Hide My Love Away’ and ‘The Dive’ which describes a gesture Wallice treasures as “one of the most brave and romantic memories I own” and which wields a muted trumpet and Mediterranean guitars while its melody skips along dreamily as though through a summer meadow.

“HANDS for me is a symbol of humanity, connection and time,” Wallis elaborates. “Humanity because, as babies, a first sign of our knowledge of existence is through our connection when we grip another human’s finger.  If we don’t have hands, are we lesser humans?  No.  Connection, because hands represent tactility and expression, a physical language that links our imagination and our reality with each other’s.  Finally, time, because some of the first examples of civilisations were hand paintings on cave walls, some of those hands missing fingers, celebrating their story of existence.”

“At 18 months old I fell under a lawnmower and cut all my fingers off.  Four were reconnected.  One was lost.  This led me to relearn how to hold things, and, when the time came, to play the guitar differently.  As a toddler, I remember seeing those cave pictures and being fascinated.  What happened?  How painful was that?  This shaped me: I wanted to draw my heart like that, to celebrate time, scars, stories and humanity on a wall where others could too.”

I invite you to rejoice with Wallis Bird in this album which may be full of self-reflection and honesty but the themes are universal and the music simply glorious.

Wallis Birds new album Hands is out on 27 May 2022.  For more information on Wallis please check out her facebook and website.

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