you may search the world over but you’ll never find another Wookalily! The all-female, multi-instrumentalist band from in and around Belfast (Northern Ireland) has worked immense magic and mastery to pull together – often in difficult and demanding circumstances – their second full album.
“Everything is Normal” is Wookalily’s follow up to 2015’s successful “All the Waiting While”. While there are some similarities in theme and tempo, “Everything is Normal” has the stamp of courageous uniqueness shared by its predecessor.
While “All the Waiting While” was often cheeky, feisty and fun-loving, “Everything is Normal” is somewhat darker in tone and theme. More mellow, reflective and announcing a certain female, introspective maturity, “Everything is Normal” is a steep step up for the fab-five.
Every member of Wookalily is an accomplished and expert multi-instrumentalist. Setting aside the usual, routine guitars and drums, their sound encompasses the additional complexities of banjo, mandolin, trumpet, double bass, and Juno string machine – along with some radio and French sound effects for good measure.
Recorded on analogue equipment by award-winning producer Julie McLarnon (The Vaselines, Jeffrey Lewis, Lankum and King Creosote), it has a wraparound sound that’s hard to pin down. At times, there is a vintage, throw-back vibe; at others, it is utterly other-worldly – ethereal and even a little bit spooky – then it swerves to an almost child-like innocence. This is music of complexity and many vibrant textures, yet there is a darkness, a broody echo arched in the background.
Let’s start with the heavenly harmonies. Folly Forever sets the scene – it is a short, haunting, four part harmony sung ‘in the round’ – a beautiful technique most of us will remember from primary school. This literary concept of female folly gives the whole album an Austen-esque, ‘tongue-in-cheek’, feminine wry eye – looking both inwards and outwards.
In fact the title “Everything is Normal” could be a wary comment on the descent into madness of this modern world – a commentary on the absurd ambiguities of political and societal insanity.
Then the wheel turns full circle – as the album opens with Folly Forever, so it ends with an extended version, therefore everything in “Everything is Normal” is trapped inside a sort of loop.
Then straight into Touché – a melancholy French themed tune. Opening with an accordion melody, Touché takes us to the streets of Paris perhaps, rounding off with radio sound effects and a subtle soliloquy in French.
Welcome to the Fold requires some careful listening. Beautifully melodic, sweetly sung by Adele Ingram, it is darker than the title might suggest. This is a song about loss – about growing old, lonely and somewhat trapped in ‘care’, the sad loss of liberty that comes with going in to a Fold setting.
Escort Me is looking at the typically one sided escort service from a refreshingly different perspective. A sing-a-long, catchy tune, with Lyndsay Crothers versatile voice on lead vocals (Crothers leads on most tracks).
The twelve track album contains two bonus tracks (Love Makes Me Sick and The Nothing Song). All written by Adele Ingram, with the exception of Vampyre (written by Clair McCreevy and Stephen O’Hagan). It’s a deep, dark, yet fun and vampish twist on the album – with a brilliant bass line; and Whiskey and Wine, written by Crothers is a song with addictive hooks that is sure to play on a continuous loop inside your head.
“Everything is Normal” takes many forays into the supernatural, the mysterious and the mystical other-world – just like its predecessor “All the Waiting While” (with its tracks The Devil is a Woman and Black Magic Doll), “Everything is Normal” continues that witchy-woman theme with Vampyre and The Old Hag – a song about sleep paralysis perhaps, nonetheless a deceptively melodic song about a terrifying experience. Likewise, the penultimate track Ghost takes on a further supernatural-stalker shift – all good fun, in a slightly twisted and delightful way. Ideal for a Halloween playlist – and released just in time for the spooky season!
Rounding off with an extended version of Forever Folly, we get a sense of completion, of finality, that no matter what, the stricken soul will always hark back to its own fundamental follies.
It’s worth pointing out that Wookalily – participants in a popular BBC4 Music Documentary featuring Midge Ure and Rhod Gilbert – is surely one of the most accomplished all female, multi-instrumentalist bands in Ireland, the British Isles and beyond. That banjo sound, juxtaposed with trumpet, double bass, mandolin, accordion, concertina and Juno string machine (just some of the additional instruments) – are the ingredients that blend to create Wookalily’s unique sound.
And if you’re wondering where the unusual name comes from or what it means? Well, according to the Urban Dictionary, Wooka- means strong, sexy woman. The lily bit comes from the odd coincidence that many of the band members had grandmothers called Lily. Lovely! An arch across the generations of strong, sexy, lovely, and ultra-talented women.
Finally, there is much more that could be said about “Everything is Normal Except the Little Things Inside My Head” but I’ll leave that up to you – go buy and listen very carefully to its beauty and complexity.
The last word however, must go to the overall cover design and inside artwork. Just like its older album-sibling (All The Waiting While) this is also a work of art in itself. Darker than the technicolour, surreal artwork of before, “Everything is Normal” is like the apocalyptic aftermath of that previous Utopian dream. An old hag on the cover, wearing multi-coloured saggy tights, walks a robot dog. Inside the Wookalily women are depicted as part human, part machine, part nature. The female of the species surrounded with all the little things going on inside their heads, depicted in monochrome miniature. Look out for the little details!
The physical album release will take place on Sunday 6th October with a celebratory party in the Ulster Sports Club, 96-98 High St, Belfast BT1 2BG 7pm – Support Pawet Bignell and Seamus Fox – Tickets on eventbrite!