by Emma Hussain
Let’s set the scene…
I first heard Wyvern Lingo in 2015, when a friend returned from seeing Hozier with news of a cool, all-girl support act. The shuffle function has kept them on the edge of my radar since, and I was excited to hear the debut album of a trio describing themselves as “friends first, band second”. The three women have delivered a musically diverse and lyrically compelling record.
Karen Cowley, Caoimhe Barry, and Saoirse Dunne have been singing together since their early teens, which shows in the First Aid Kit-esque blending of their voices. They started out playing with fellow County Wicklow native Hozier, and have become something of a pride and joy of the Irish music scene. With a bit of luck, this debut will increase their recognition on this side of the Irish Sea.
Let’s talk tracks…
The album opens on a simple three-part harmony, in many ways the essence of their unique sound, before building into the politically cutting ‘Out of My Hands’. Written from the point of view of a politically apathetic man Cowley encountered in a pub, the song references Ireland’s increasingly unpopular 8th amendment and the ongoing refugee crisis.
The lead single, ‘I Love You, Sadie’, demonstrates the album’s interesting fusion of R&B beats with guitar that nods to both funk and the ‘alternative’ label the band is often ascribed.
Soulful, sultry vocals and a simple bassline shine through on ‘Maybe it’s My Nature’, a track that Cowley explains is a response to the lack of sexual agency allowed to female characters in popular culture. ‘Crawl’ similarly blurs the lines between genres, while in ‘Dark Cloud’ simplicity again excels.
‘Used’ is a ballad upcycled from the trio’s 2014 ‘The Widow Knows’ EP. As a sucker for a good three-part harmony, I can’t help but be blown away by the sheer vocal power of the track (these girls have MAD range between them). While the 2014 version was a cappella throughout, the progressive addition of bass and synth lends the album version a new depth.
‘Used’ marks a unique, though not necessarily out-of-place, point on the album. ‘Fountains’ opens the second half with signature simplicity and guitar riffing. If the first half of the album is somewhat samey on first listen, ‘Snow II’ and ‘Fear’ demonstrate its diversity, relying on synth to create chilled electronica tracks.
‘Tell Him’, a passionate representation of the pain of ending a relationship, is a standout track, with skilful use of plain piano chords and harmonies building to a powerful and catchy chorus, its abrupt end mirroring the song’s cut-throat themes. ‘Subside’ returns to the genre of the album’s early tracks, with another memorable chorus on the theme of romanticised, obsessive love.
‘When I Can (Rubbish)’ is a strong closing track, collecting all the best aspects of the record: great vocal and guitar riffs, satisfying tertian harmonies, and down-to-earth lyrics: ‘We don’t make too much mess / Me and my ma can say / So we don’t put the bins out / ‘Til every other Wednesday’.
Wyvern Lingo have made a truly diverse debut album. While it’s a world away from their folk roots, it’s also testament to their over ten years of experience playing together. Look out for them on tour this month and throughout the summer.