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Virginia Wing - private LIFE Music Album Reviews

Virginia Wing - private LIFE Music Album Reviews
Expanding from a duo to a trio, complete with saxophone, the Manchester group embraces newfound production gloss without sacrificing its indie-pop roots.

Aren’t all our lives private lives right now? Over the past year, as the shutters have come down on the outside world, many of us have lost access to those spontaneous human interactions that occur in public space; the self that we show to others is increasingly that which we select, mediated through a feed or screen. The fourth full-length from Manchester’s Virginia Wing—here expanded from a duo to the trio of Alice Merida Richards, Sam Pillay, and new recruit Christopher Duffin—never addresses lockdown specifically. Understandably; perhaps they’d rather not pin a piece of their art to this dismal era. But the album’s themes—of isolation, dealing with trauma, and keeping one’s mind on an even keel—feel very much made for these times.
Formed in 2012, Virginia Wing have evolved from a halting indie group into—well, what exactly? Today they’re signed to Fire, a storied UK independent label that dates back to the 1980s, and their music increasingly embraces production gloss and pop sensibility. Discussing inspirations for private LIFE, they mention Prince, Timbaland, and the hip-hop producer Scott Storch alongside leftfield touchstones like Kleenex and the Slits. If it’s still tempting to call them a DIY group, that’s because this music still feels like it comes from a shared and private world.

“I’m Holding Out for Something,” the album’s opening track, is the group’s poppiest song to date, and maybe their best. Powered by a boom-clap rhythm and blissful filtered synths, it’s a sideways swing at ’80s freestyle, guileless in its big melodies and grand, unchecked emotions. Richards’ exultant vocal faintly recalls Sue Tompkins of Life Without Buildings, the obscure Scottish indie-pop group whose “The Leanover” was recently rediscovered by the TikTok generation. It’s the kind of song made for throwing shapes in your front room, perhaps while singing into a hairbrush, and in the track’s video, Richards does pretty much exactly that.

Deeper in, Virginia Wing synthesize their influences in bolder, stranger ways. “St. Francis Fountain” and “Half Mourning” are pop songs by structure, but they owe much to the textures of new-age music, blooming with strings and washes of synth. The addition of Duffin to the group’s lineup, meanwhile, has had a transformative effect. A tenor saxophonist, he’s played alongside Richards and Pillay before; his group XAM Duo joined forces with Virginia Wing on 2017’s collaborative record Tomorrow’s Gift. Here, he brings some gorgeous soloing—listen to him fluttering mischievously in and out of Richards’ sober vocal on “99 North.” More broadly, though, he contributes to a mood that runs throughout private LIFE: a lush, numinous quality inherited from spiritual jazz. With its serene delivery and harp-like tones, “Soft Fruit” resembles Broadcast if they were raised on Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders rather than Silver Apples and United States of America.

A band who played a UK tour in front of a sign reading “End Rape Culture,” Virginia Wing don’t lack for a politically engaged sensibility. But like its predecessor, Ecstatic Arrow, private LIFE feels less like an album raging against injustice than one willing a better, kinder world into being. Richards’ strength as a vocalist is that she sounds powerful even when she’s laying her vulnerabilities bare. On “Return to View,” a spoken-word piece with shades of Laurie Anderson, she addresses the listener directly. “I’m conscious of taking up all of the space/With my breath,” she intones. “I’ve got issues to address/And habits to change.” Many music-makers treat songwriting as a form of therapy, but it’s nice to hear that idea communicated so tangibly here: the sound of getting better, bit by bit, every day.

The album isn’t perfect; it could use one or two more bold pop bangers, and it tails off a little toward the end. But that, too, is understandable; this is an introspective record by design. private LIFE is an album exploring the urge to hide away from the injustices of the world, tempered with the awareness that at some point, you’ve got to face up to them. Right now, in the first uncertain months of 2021, Virginia Wing’s utopian visions feel especially invaluable. This is joyful music with a spirit of self-preservation at its core.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Virginia Wing - private LIFE Music Album Reviews Virginia Wing - private LIFE Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, February 19, 2021 Rating: 5

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