Willie J Healey – ‘Twin Heavy’ album review

Signed to Felix White’s YALA! Records, Willie J Healey is all set to release his second full-length album on 7 August. Recorded to tape (along with last year’s ‘Hello Good Morning’) for extra warmth and authenticity in just nine days, the record finds Willie embracing his love of both slacker pop and the soulful sound of the ’60s.

The nostalgic ‘Fashun’ opens the record in style. You may have heard this one on the radio and found yourself singing along to it already – especially to the chorus with the added Motown-tinged vocals. The song itself finds Willie offering all kinds of mentorship to someone he believes to be ‘the real thing’: ‘You’re gonna be a big star, honey, a real household name’. The psychedelica-meets-Americana of recent single ‘True Stereo’ follows with direct and personal lyrics: ‘Were you listening to your favourite song on the radio? Were you watching your favourite show on the TV screen? Were you looking for some good action?’

‘Songs for Joanna’ veers more into the teddy boy rock and roll sound favoured by Little Richard and Bill Haley as Willie sings about somebody who is starting to come of age with affection. The title track is more baroque and sentimental with powerful lyrics: ‘Heartache is a traffic jam to me. It’s the killer in the night that steals your dreams’; ‘Loneliness is such a funny thing’, while the space-age ‘Condo’ finds Willie looking ahead: ‘I want to spend some time painting pretty pictures to open up my mind’. ‘Heavy Traffic’ finds Willie lamenting the fact he’s 22 and still confused (just wait until you get to 36!) against a jaunty, intense backing before asking the subject ‘I heard caffeine induces anxiety. If you don’t like the flavour, why are you doing it?’ amidst a sea of crunching riffs.

‘Why You Gotta Do It’ features observations about how money can’t save all your problems, especially when it comes to mental health and is a promise to offer those in need the support they deserve – no matter how helpless you feel. The penultimate song is ‘Thousand Reasons’, a heart-on-the-sleeve piano ballad that captures the spirit of singer-songwriters like Paul Simon: ‘Why’d you always say that you need somebody? Why’d you always say that you need somebody new?’ The album closes with the slow-burning ‘Caroline Needs’ – and this one reminded us of Warren Zevon: ‘Some reasons why I love you: the stars, the moon, the sun. Without you, things are average, my laces come undone’.

With classic pop sensibilities and themes of love (found and lost) throughout, ‘Twin Heavy’ is an album that invites you into Willie J Healey’s world – and it’s one you won’t want to leave for a long time.

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