Today, Irish-born, Berlin-based artist, activist, and storyteller, Wallis Bird is thrilled to share her critically acclaimed seventh studio album HANDS (Mount Silver Records / Soundly Music).
HANDS – also known as NINE AND A HALF SONGS FOR NINE AND A HALF FINGERS – finds BIRD turning the spotlight onto herself, raising issues that are sometimes far harder to confront, only to emerge optimistic and whole. Among these are issues of trust, alcohol abuse, stagnation, self-censorship, and self-improvement, some addressed through personal recollections of crucial moments accumulated over the last two years. Each, however, is delivered by a voice uncommonly blessed with joy, ingenuity, and empathy.
In conjunction with the album release, Bird is sharing the palpitating new 80s indietronica-infused single “I Lose Myself Completely.”
“I love the euphoria of being high when you’re with great people and clicking with people in an exciting city,” Wallis explains. “I am not against drugs at all but I said just for me: Ok, stop it now.“
Working with renowned Irish animator Fergal Brennan, the track’s video exhibits portraits throughout the centuries of women only, all painted by female artists. Beginning with bespoke modern pieces dating right back to the 19th and 18th centuries and rounding the video off with cave paintings of human hands, these very cave paintings sparked the vast inspiration for Wallis and the new record, showing some of the first recognition of ‘self’ in human history. Some paintings are even missing fingers, too.
On the video, Wallis says: “Fergal is a critically acclaimed, wildly inventive visual artist from Ireland. This music video is a genuine feat – Fergal chronologically documents thousands of uncredited and under-acknowledged women artists from today right up to the very first cave painting through melding and re-animating their work. He painstakingly turned this mammoth idea into a fully coherent music video. If it wasn’t my song I would still be saying this. It’s a work of art.”
WATCH “I LOSE MYSELF COMPLETELY” OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO
HANDS adapts sounds from BIRD’s early childhood. Barring the intimately confessional ‘I’ll Never Hide My Love Away’, its songs are flushed with bright colors, many familiar from the 1980s and ‘90s. Its bookends are ‘Go’, whose smooth R&B inflections provide a neat bridge from the album’s forerunner, and ‘Pretty Lies’, its euphoric conclusion powered by forty chunky chord progressions. In-between, HANDSrarely pauses. The jubilant ‘What’s Wrong With Changing’ appropriates the rhythmic discipline of Janet Jackson’s Control, Rhythm Nation 1814 and janet., and ‘I Lose Myself Completely’ revels in Trevor Horn’s work, while the grinning ‘No Pants Dance’, written after witnessing neighbors celebrating lockdown’s end, would have delighted Prince, and ‘Dreamwriting’ – “a reminder to myself of one of my most favorite memories in recent years” – is full of warmth, lyrically and musically.
‘Aquarius’ dreamy chord changes and unexpected pedal steel, meanwhile, help unleash some of the prettiest instrumental sections 2022’s likely to enjoy, and there are pensive moments, too, not least ‘The Dive’, which describes a gesture BIRD 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. If the sonic palette is different, then, HANDS is still defiantly, happily WALLIS BIRD.
“HANDS for me is a symbol of humanity, connection, and time,” BIRD 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. Finally, time, because some of the first examples of civilizations were hand paintings on cave walls, some of those hands missing fingers, celebrating their story of existence.”
HANDS’ themes, though, are obviously personal. “At 18 months old I fell under a lawnmower and cut all my fingers off,” BIRD states simply. “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.”
As 2019 came to an end, BIRD found herself with time enough to reassess her relationship with her hand – and indeed herself – so decided to take a rare break. She’s released six albums since 2007, for which she’s won two Meteor Awards, Ireland’s annual music prize – mostly recently for Best Female Artist – and a prestigious 2017 German “Musikautorenpreis” (Music Author Prize), not to mention two further nominations for the Choice Music Prize, Ireland’s equivalent to Britain’s Mercury Prize. In addition, she’s racked up over a thousand shows during the past decade, earning a reputation worldwide for passionate, energetic, good-humored concerts. She began her sabbatical by quitting alcohol, a decision at the heart of ‘I Lose Myself Completely’, and four days later, she recalls, “I went to Philipp Milner (producer/musician, Hundreds)’s house to make some music, and my world opened up like an orchid.” Subsequently, she details, the album “was recorded in fifty weeks, primarily in Philipp’s farmhouse studio in Wendland, my studio in Berlin, and Marcus Wuest’s in Sandhausen, where I’ve recorded all my albums.”
HANDS was completed with ‘The Power Of A Word’, a hushed showcase for shimmering synths and a notably ethereal vocal. At the heart of the track – as with so much of HANDS – is self-examination, change and acceptance. “Up until recently,” BIRD concludes, “I simply treated my hand as something additional, not primary to my story. But, during this pandemic, when everything in my usual life was scattered, I found myself wondering ‘Who am I? What am I? What story do I leave behind?’ My story had been one of stubborn ‘I can do it just as good as anyone’, but this new chapter in my life has been about letting go of over-controlling, handing things over to others, being comfortable with my surroundings and colleagues, and knowing I’m understood. Right now, I’m a passenger, a guest in my life, because the album has been so collaborative and so out-of-bodily written, almost hypnotically. And I love it!”
HANDS (NINE AND A HALF SONGS FOR NINE AND A HALF FINGERS)
What’s Wrong With Changing
I Lose Myself Completely
The Power Of A Word
No Pants Dance
I’ll Never Hide My Love Away
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