Warmth by Willy Hooker Review


This EP follows Willy’s full-length album Thoughtscapes, which came in 1st place on my “Top 5 Art and Entertainment Releases of 2018” list. It is a follow-up not just in terms of its chronological release but also in terms of its themes and sounds. Thoughtscapes conceptually ends at the break of dawn following a series of vivid dreams and imaginative machinations; Warmth’s album cover seems to pick up right where Thoughtscapes left off as the orange, warm sky is only just beginning to fill with light (or maybe the picture was taken at dusk, in which case this could all very well be from dreams again as the song Another Place suggests).


FADE AWAY

Within the first 10 seconds of this track starting, the sounds are overwhelmingly Willy in nature. Willy makes fantastic use of layered vocals and different vocal styles on this track. There are a few high pitched backing vocals that occur throughout and they contribute very nicely to the song’s overall atmosphere as well as occupying additional frequencies (which help to fill the song out to make it sound much more wholesome than it would otherwise). The song has a wacky but satisfying ending.

SUSHI

One of the heaviest songs from Willy that I have ever heard as the instrumentals go all in for a significant duration of the song. Like many songs from the Will-meister, this song’s structure is like a labyrinth whose walls are constantly shifting whenever you even begin to predict what will happen next. It is nice to be kept on edge like that as the repetitive use of predictable song structures often does more harm than good (although repetitive structures are not inherently bad).

WARMTH

The self-titled track off this EP. The first few seconds sound like a Sleep song being played at double speed and the following lead guitar parts sound like an improvised rendition of the American national anthem (I may be the only one that thinks these things when I listen to this song, but both immediately came to mind the very first time I heard this song and the feeling has not went away with repeated listens).

This song is about the feeling of love for those around you whether it is friends or family. The verse on this song is simply fantastic:

“I’m supposed to get rid of this warmth from my chest,
it’s a vest, shelter from the storm
Supposed to give it to the people,
now I’m looking out the peephole while they sit and mourn


Suppose I could trek, lend a hand, help a friend,
send a mans to a happy place 
Here’s some warmth, from the heart,
take a dose and you’ll start out the day with a happy face”

I’m not sure EXACTLY what Willy intended with these lyrics, but for me it is about the feeling of duty you have for the people you love and to protect them from the harsh, cold, distant world around them by offering them the warm vest that protects you (the warm vest is the feeling of love that you receive from them and so is a mutual exchange). We look out to the world around us and we see people “while they sit and mourn” because the world is a difficult place and sometimes we can get down on ourselves. But with love, we can put a smile on someone’s face and make that moment just a bit easier. It doesn’t change the world but its moments like these that make life worth living.

The chorus here is catchy-as-hell and has been stuck in my head since the track was first released as a single. The chorus is followed by a guitar solo section in which the underlying instrumentation undergoes a brilliant transition. The arrangements are tight and restrained when the solo starts, but at the 2:18 mark we have a smooth transition into something that sounds much more free as Willy opens up his solo as well.

This song was the best choice for a lead single for this EP.

EQUALITY WITHIN

The stressed importance of hobbies and interests outside of our required daily life responsibilities. For Willy, this is music. And not just the music he writes and performs by himself. But the music he makes with other people as well. Music is something that brings people together and gives them something to bond over and through. There are few things better than collaborating on a musical project with a friend (especially when things are starting to sound really good).

Musically, this track is fantastic as Willy crafts yet another brilliant labyrinth of soundscapes. Layered vocals are beautifully manipulated yet again as some sort of climax is reached by the 4-minute mark of the song. After this climax, the song claws and crawls towards its end as we are given time to unravel everything we have heard so far and also given the space to prepare ourselves for the next track (which is an absolute doozy).

ANOTHER PLACE

A simple yet captivating drum track kicks off the EP closer as uplifting guitar parts slice their way into our minds. The rhythms and layers that unfold are heavenly and some of Willy’s best ever. Over top of the lush instrumentals, Willy expresses his questioning of the origin of the warmth and ponders whether these feelings are also from dreams (a direct reference to the lyrical concepts of Thoughtscapes).

There are several words and lines throughout this song that are sung so perfectly, it makes me wonder how Willy came up with such brilliance. The first of these comes early on: “Look inside. Seek and find. A new place. Not in time. Forest fires. Scorch the plains. Keep on praying. I’ll be fine.” Again, I can’t read Willy’s mind so I can only speak to what these lyrics mean to me.

To me, these lines are about looking inside oneself for spiritual enlightenment. What we find inside of ourselves are scorched plains and forest fires bringing ruin to our minds (perhaps in the form of anxieties, depression, etc.) But Willy asks us to keep praying for him and assures us he will be fine. Whether Willy intended to layout his mental and emotional struggles on a personal level, or whether Willy intended something else entirely, I believe that these lines are applicable to everyone (or at least my interpretation of these lines).

Sometimes it feels like my mind is in ruins as if a forest fire ran rampant through it, destroying my sense of being and my love of life. Some days I hate everything that life represents. But it’s the connections I have with my friends and family that keep me going as well as the spiritual enlightenment that I try so hard to reach.

After these lines, Willy makes more great use of layered vocals to build up the emotion surging below the surface, ready to break free. The ground is pulsing as these emotions try to burst from below the surface. And then…

“Next thing I know 
My mind begins to grow 
The Warmth is fire is God is love for everything I know 
I start to coast through twisted twilight zones 
A Lynchian exposure left so long it burned a hole”

Another example of sung brilliance in this song. The way that the “o” sounds are emphasized and drawn out makes for something that is both insanely memorable as well as something immensely emotional. “The Warmth is fire is God” line elevates the concept of Warmth to a purely spiritual level. Not only is Warmth spiritual in nature, it IS God. It is one and the same.

Following these lines, the instrumentation changes into something that feels entirely free flowing and open. Listening to the rest of the song feels as if I am floating (in a spiritual sense). It is both life-affirming and beautiful. Lyrically, the song reminds me of “nature’s swing” from Thoughtscapes. The Twin Peaks reference (and excerpt) make perfect sense here to close out the song and the album. Firstly, because Lynch is directly referenced in the songs lyrics before the Twin Peaks references. Secondly, because Lynch too is an artist focused on the spirit within. Thirdly, I’m pretty sure the repeated use of fire imagery throughout the song has a lot to do with Fire Walk With Me (the Twin Peaks movie). I know Willy just finished watching Twin Peaks (I’m onto you my amigo, you can’t trick the Jess-meister).


CONCLUSION:

Warmth is fantastic follow-up to the magnificent Thoughtscapes. While it is not meant to be as epic in scale, it contains nearly as much in terms of emotional content and musical proficiency. Furthermore, ANOTHER PLACE is one of the best songs Willy has ever done and I am excited to hear what’s to come. A fantastic listen and highly recommended to anyone that is looking to be inspired.

9/10   –   Amazing

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