It’s fair to say that Two Wings’ Hanna Tuulikki has a Marmite voice. Were she to go on ‘The Voice’, Sir Tom Jones would probably raise an eyebrow so far up his face that he’d have to arrange an appointment with his plastic surgeon to put it back again. Which is a good thing. In the mould of Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush, Tuulikki has a stunning soprano voice that cuts through other instruments and can’t be ignored. And don’t be fooled by its endearingly child-like quality – she’s got great control and knows what she’s doing. If you like vanilla voices, Two Wings is probably not for you.
It’s also Tuulikki’s voice that holds ‘Love’s Spring’ together – an album that draws upon many sounds – soul, psychedelic rock, folk and country. Though the album meanders stylistically, Two Wings’ comfort zone seems to be a kind of proggy Fairport Convention-style folk rock. They enjoy taking on the most heinous excesses of the 1970s and then, well, exceeding them a bit. And why the hell not. The album’s title track ticks all the proggy folk-rock boxes: funny time signatures, a rambling fuzzy guitar solo that pans all over the shop and freaky backing vocals. It’s pretty long, too, not quite long enough to be an LSD-induced 25-minute Grateful Dead epic, but a nod in that direction.
The album’s first single, ‘Eikon’, starts the album, and it’s a great tune. Tuulikki’s not big on enunciation, so it’s difficult to discern lyrics, but it sounds suitably portentous. It’s a big, bold sound with a proper soul horn section and a lovely anthemic fade out, and it deserves to get some attention. ‘Feet’, the second track, is another highlight. Guitarist and songwriter Ben Reynolds‘ voice marries well with Tuulikki’s on this tender psychedelic love song. It’s the loveliest texture on the album – acoustic guitar, brass and woodwind, with the spooky and melancholy sound of the lap-steel, bringing to mind Joanna Newsom’s ‘This Side of the Blue’.
Two Wings are at their best when they take on these big and unusual textures. And with two such strong tracks at the front end of the album, it can’t help but tail off a little bit afterwards. As the album goes on it feels a bit looser, and I found myself becoming less forgiving when tunes were stretched out. They might on occasion want to shave a couple of minutes off those pentatonic Neil Young-y guitar solos, though I believe that cutting short guitar solos is in fact outlawed in the folk rock rulebook.
It’s not flawless, but ‘Love’s Spring’ is an impressive début which shows them to be a considerably soulful little group. At their best, they show touches of The Band with a kind of ragged grooviness that can’t be faked. It bodes well for their live shows; go and check them out.
Review by David Price
Two Wings Live
Love’s Spring is released on Tin Angel April 30th.