The front cover of Irish born, Berlin based WALLIS BIRD’s new album features a black and white photograph of a hand. A cursory look might not reveal anything unusual, but it only takes a moment to recognise it’s no ordinary hand. In the shadows there’s a stump where the little finger should be, and something seems off about the other digits too. Some will understand its significance: they’ll have seen it strumming an upside-down, right-handed guitar, picking in unorthodox style, forming unconventional chords. The hand, you see, is WALLIS BIRD’s, and it’s there because, having spent much of her life trying to exist despite its restrictions, she’s reached a point where she recognises that, in many ways, it’s always been vital to her lived reality. With this has come a realisation of “who I am, what I am, and what I don’t want.” HANDS documents her subsequent process of change, and its consequences, with typically distinctive style, making it – hands down, naturally – one of the most honest albums you’ll hear at a time when honesty is at a premium.
If 2019’s exceptional Woman represented an ambitious state of the world address, 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.
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