Wyvern Lingo’s 2014 debut EP ‘The Widow Knows’ introduced the world to the powerful harmonies of Karen Cowley, Soairse Duane, and Caoimhe Barry with a set of songs rooted in the folk gospel realm but with a haunting darkness that eluded to the influence of artists such as Fiona Apple and Amanda Palmer.
2.8 million Spotify streams later Wyvern Lingo return as Ireland’s premier vocal harmony group having established themselves as a mainstream proposition thanks to standout performances on Other Voices, a plumb touring support slot with Hozier, and a string of successful festival appearances.
Their ascent to bigger stages is mirrored by a bigger sound on their second EP. ‘Letter To Willow’ is propelled by a sleeker soul sound, embracing electric and electronic elements. Acoustic guitar gives way to confident electric riffs, piano to pulsating synth lines. Thankfully, this sonic shift doesn’t diminish the group’s approach to harmonies, which remain a cornerstone.
Letter To Willow announces this evolution instantly with a synth bassline, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Le Galaxie or Fight Like Apes song. Whilst unexpected, the up-tempo blast of synth and guitar shanks is dancefloor ready and proves to be the perfect bed for Wyvern Lingo’s interweaving vocal delivery.
Similarly, lead single Subside embraces a more modern sound. A brooding swell of percussion and bass mirror the sexual tension and yearning of lyrics such as “I need you to want me, so much that one touch could make you so nervous, you might stop breathing”.
Running is built around the type of two-bar guitar riff you’d expect to find in a classic hip-hop track. With the groove set Cowley, Duane, and Barry prove they have the chops to stand against the major vocal harmony groups of yesteryear with cleverly placed vocal blasts.
Vocally, the knockout blow is delivered on the sombre, pastoral ballad Beast At The Door, which sees Wyvern Lingo move from an at times operatic delivery into full on power-ballad mode, running the gamut you’d expect from Jeff Buckley. In the hands of a Mariah Carey or Christina Aaguilera type singer; this would descend into a warblefest, but here, every note counts.
‘Letter To Willow’ proves that Wyvern Lingo can be radio-friendly without compromising on the dark allure of their lyrical content, their vocals and most importantly their songs.