Willie J Healey is back with easily one of our favourite albums of 2020 so far.
On opener ‘Fashun' - with tongue firmly placed in cheek - Healey sings: “You’re gonna be a big star / A real household name."
But on the back of 'Twin Heavy' and an ever-growing fan-base - which includes indie legend Jamie T - this 20-something troubadour is destined for the big time.
‘Fashun’ seems like an obvious choice as an introduction to the album, with its signature WJH optimism setting our expectations high from the start. While it wasn’t initially meant to be on the record and was penned after the other songs had been recorded, it doesn’t feel like an afterthought, but rather captures the spirit of 'Twin Heavy' incredibly well.
In terms of lyrical inspiration, there are nods to British legends Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello with many clever, sharp-witted lines. Lyrics such as “You know that when you sleep / You die a little bit”, on ‘Heavy Traffic’, are just one of many examples of deep, serious and sometimes dark themes that shouldn’t want to make you smile, but the light, almost optimistic delivery often does.
'Twin Heavy' sees the Oxfordshire sonic auteur write more about his own feelings compared to his previous works, giving a more personal feel overall, which is amplified further by the LP being recorded to tape for a more intimate portrayal of emotion.
While theme-wise there might have been some slight changes, there’s a couple of tracks, such as ‘For You’ and ‘Songs For Joanna’, that sonically could’ve easily fit in on WJH’s 2017 debut album, 'People & Their Dogs'. Even a quick single note on the bridge of ‘True Stereo’ screams Willie J Healey to anyone that has listened to his music before.
The influence of Healey’s heroes Neil Young and the late Beatles legend George Harrison are found in most of his music, similarly so throughout 'Twin Heavy'. Whilst the 70s heavily inspired the collection, there are hints of other decades scattered throughout, with bright melodies and modern lyrics mixed together with soulful, choral-like choruses, resulting in a genre-busting record.
After an intro which could lyrically be a nod to Lou Bega’s 'Mambo No 5' (“Cindy in the evening / Rachel in the fog / Rosie every morning / And Sarah after dark”), album closer ‘Caroline Needs’ brings 'Twin Heavy' simmering down; with a strong focus on vocals, the track flips in mood, for what is easily Healey’s rawest song to date and a very welcome surprise at the end of the album.
It's not often you find an artist with such obvious influences, who isn't constricted by categorisation, and still sounds so undeniably, instantly recognisable as themselves - but Willie J Healey does just that.
Reviewed by: Eline Joling
For Fans Of: Mac DeMarco, Penelope Isles
Release date: 07.08.20