You may search the world over but you’ll never find another Wookalily. The all-female, multi-instrumentalist band from in and around Belfast has worked immense magic and mastery to pull together – often in difficult and demanding circumstances – their second full album.
Everything Is Normal is the 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. This literary concept of female folly gives the whole album an Austen-esque, tongue-in-cheek, feminine wry eye looking both inwards and outwards.
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. The album ends with an extended version of Forever Folly. Therefore, everything in Everything Is Normal is trapped inside a sort of loop.
Touché is a melancholy French-themed tune. Opening with an accordion melody, it 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 and 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 basically about being ripped off by an unscrupulous character. A sing-a-long, catchy tune, with Lyndsay Crothers versatile voice on lead vocals.
The twelve-track album contains two bonus tracks (Love Makes Me Sick and The Nothing Song). All songs are 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.
Everything is Normal takes many forays into the supernatural, the mysterious and the mystical other-world just like its predecessor, continuing that witchy-woman theme with The Old Hag – a song about sleep paralysis perhaps, a deceptively melodic song about a terrifying experience. Likewise, the penultimate track Ghost takes on a further supernatural-stalker shift. It’s all good fun in a slightly twisted and delightful way. It’s 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.
The last word, however, must go to the overall cover design and inside artwork. Just like its older album-sibling, 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.
And look out for the album launch show and more gigs coming up. Keep an eye on: wookalily.com.
Everything Is Normal is out on Sunday 6th October with a release party in The Ulster Sports Club, Belfast.