There was a time three to four years ago when I thought Wallis Bird was going to huge. Amy Winehouse huge. Whilst I was clearly wrong Wallis has been moderately successful, especially in her native Ireland. Although she is still not considered a household name and barely registers in terms of modern pop culture she is never-the-less highly regarded. Unfortunately critical acclaim has yet to manifest itself in the form of commercial success. This is both a shame and an injustice. Wallis for many, to date at any rate, remains a bit of an enigma. She's a great writer, an enthusiastic performer and a powerful, soulful singer who has her own style, yet she remains on the periphery.
Her debut album 'Spoons', released back in 2007, and its follow up, 'New Boots', released two years later, were both widely regarded as good albums. Wallis' latest, eponymously titled, album is set to keep that thread of consistency going whilst at the same time raising the bar in a creative sense. The eleven track album flits between a sublime sense of calm and neurotic manic madness, sometimes within the same song.
'Dress My Skin And Become What I'm Supposed To' is a stripped back start to the album with a Spanish guitar accompaniment and the occasional xylophone note scoring Wallis' smooth, soft and warm vocal. For all its tenderness the silky veneer never seems far from unleashing a more explosive temperament from within and sure enough we don't have to wait long to hear it. 'I Am So Tired Of That Line' jumps to a completely different beat, not dissimilar in part to The Spice Girls 'Wannabe' (You shouldn't let that put you off, this is a rousing track full of energy and intent).
The first single taken from the album is the immediately catchy, uplifting and raucous 'Encore'. The bouncing percussive beats and playful keyboards drive the heart of this hook laden anthemic jamboree. Wallis demonstrates her fabulous vocal range to give an electrifying performance before taking things down a notch for the more sedate 'Take Me Home'. Here we see Wallis deliver a more melodic composition that is both a delicately fragile on the one hand and frenzied banshee on the other.
'In Dictum' further demonstrates the breadth of Wallis Bird's musical capabilities. The intense, heartfelt outpouring is a powerful Folk infused ballad that cuts right through to connect with the listener with a tremendous impact. As Wallis sings you can't help but live through the roller-coaster of emotional turmoil....."The more you hold on to me, the less you can have of me, the more you hold on to me, the less I am yours to keep." 'Ghosts Of Memories' shows a similarly adept touch with Wallis singing in a more breathy, Tori like exasperation intermittently whipping up the mix to great theatrical effect.
A complete sea change is witnessed on the jazzy, summer scented jollity of 'Heartbeating City' and the more experimental mood continues as Wallis rocks out on the Grace Potter like 'Who's Listening Now'. A more serene pace is adopted for the penultimate track, 'Feathered Pocket', The gentle love song sets the tone nicely for the close out track 'Polarised;' Its eight minutes are a meander through the dissection of a relationship. The indulgence of the piece is not wasted as low whispers swap places with a wailing agony and musical cacophony as Wallis lays herself bare.
Wallis Bird, the album, was written and recorded in Brixton, Berlin and Ireland and this has clearly influenced each of her songs to a lesser or greater extent. The diversity among the eleven tracks is staggering and wonderful. There is never a dull moment as your interest is kept alive throughout by both the over all quality but also the differing arrangements, compositions, instrumentation and deliveries. Wallis Bird's third album will no doubt garner more critical acclaim but what it deserves more is to have that success translated into listeners.