Certified Jams – “The Normal Album” by Will Wood


Anna Gribbell, Staff Writer, Editor

After two album releases as the band “Will Wood and the Tapeworms,” “Everything is a Lot” in 2015 and “Self-ish” in 2016, Will Wood decided to go solo with his latest album released in 2020 titled “The Normal Album.”


Wood is an avant-pop singer-songwriter based in Pennsylvania. Any of his song names are certainly a mouthful to say, and his solo album comes as no exception. The themes of Wood’s songs go over everything from politics to mental health and even societal issues. A staple of many of his songs are a swinging saxophone as part of the instrumental, playing alongside the piano and guitar.


One of the tracks on this album is “Outliars and Hyppocrates: A Fun Fact about Apples.” This track is about being an “outlier” both mentally and socially, featuring a chorus including the lines “‘Cause I doubt that you would even if you could change / You think it makes you special, but it makes you strange.” Wood also includes an allusion to “The Butterfly as a Companion: Meditations on the First Three Chapters of the Chuang-Tzu:” “When Chuang-Tzu awoke he sat up / Almost choking, spat out a butterfly…” This is a well-known book in the field of philosophy, tying in to how the pre-chorus of the song includes philosophical questions: “Who’d want to be human anyway? / Who pilots all these crude machines? / Why’d you come into the world or come out that way?”


Another track is “2econd-2ight-2eer (that was fun, goodbye).” This track heavily features references to psychology and mental health, such as the lines from the chorus, “I’m just a psycho babe / Come and go out my mind / I didn’t lose it babe / There wasn’t much to find.” There’s another allusion to the children’s song “Row Row Row Your Boat,” with the lines “Now to row, row, row my boat over the falls / And maybe wake up from but a dream.” This may possibly be a reference to how childhood trauma can affect mental health in adult life, or it may just be a reference to a song many people know.


This album definitely has some major “Disney villain but in a Tim Burton movie that takes place in a futuristic society that’s modeled after the 1950s” soundtrack vibes, and I, for one, am absolutely here for it! Definitely recommend to any fans of Miracle Musical, Junie & TheHutFriends, or Jack Stauber. Even those artists can’t really be compared to the unique work of art that is “The Normal Album,” and you just have to experience it for yourself.


Wood also gives The Pioneer Press some insight to his inspirations and thoughts on this album over email:


Q. Are there any songs/albums/artists that inspired you while making “The Normal Album?” 


A.My influences for this record were sort of all over the place, which is why the sound of each song is so drastically different from the others. To a certain extent this album was influenced by what seems like the culmination of years of influence from countless sources, so you get things like doo-wop, ska, disco, swing, americana etc. all smashed together. It was definitely an ambitious project, and I think I was trying to sort of create something that reflected every part of my songwriting instincts, so it’s hard for me to point to even a handful of artists or songs that were deciding factors on how I wanted it to sound. It was a lot more vague or abstract than that.


Q.Do you have a personal favorite song on this album?


A.It’s tough for me to pick, but I think “…well, better than the alternative” is my favorite. It was such an important song in my life. It was the first time I wrote a song that made me feel so vulnerable and weird that I was afraid to put it out, and the first time I was trying to express some stuff that I was finally wrapping my head around for the first time. It ended up informing a lot of how I write these days – honesty being step one. Before all the other lessons I’ve learned


Q. Can you say anything about your upcoming album set to be released in 2022?


A. My next record, which I’m currently planning on calling “In Case I Make It,” is going to be[,] I think[,] by far my most interesting and expressive work yet. It’s an even greater departure from my past releases than any of my past releases, and it has some really very personal and emotionally vulnerable songs in it. I feel about this whole album the way I did about “…well, better than the alternative.” Only even weirder. Even more uncertain. Which I think means it’s good, in a way. Sure, I’ve got some self-doubts I’ve never really had in the past – but I also am operating on a much less grandiose, less vain level I think. I think. The point is that my ambitions are so different with this one. The Normal Album was so wrapped up in trying to be impressive, and most of the songs were still from before my brain started to get itself together. This one’s so much more about genuinely expressing myself in a way that people can hear and feel, so it’s a more intellectualized chunk of writing and more mature chunk of writing. It’s much more communicative, but also much more private. 


Q. Do you have any advice for students wanting to go into a music career or general life advice?


A. Just know that while it’s a thrill and an honor to do something you love for a living, nothing is ever always perfect. There are parts of this job that I can’t stand, and ultimately that’s what this is: a job. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing it and there’s nothing I’d rather do, and I don’t let the fact that it’s “just a job” get in the way of expressing myself as freely as I can an artist, but if you think having your dream job will save you from whatever the world has in store for you, you’re going to be disappointed. If you want to get into a career that necessitates or includes a certain level of celebrity status, I can tell you I think it would have helped me to spend more time thinking about why exactly I wanted that and what potentially unhealthy things inside my personality might have influenced or end up being influenced by the career I wanted. Honesty with [oneself] doesn’t always come easily to artistic types, even if we think it does. Ego problems so often do, and ego will always want to take precedent over truth if we allow it to.

Correction: The article originally stated Wood was based in New Jersey. It has now been corrected to say he is based in Pennsylvania.