Lisa Hannigan – At Swim
When you knit the cover of your first album, anything thereafter can only be less twee. So it is with Lisa Hannigan. This is her third solo release and it’s a much more low-key, downbeat, maudlin affair than either of its predecessors. A central theme is one of loss. Of friends, for sure. ‘Prayer For The Dying’ sets a sombre but beautiful tone in that regard. Of sleep. ‘Lo’ is an ode to insomnia. But, perhaps most of all, of a certain way of viewing the world. “We advance in tender increments, Between the past and future tense”. Central to the album is Aaron Dessner of The National. He’s at least partly responsible for its very realisation, helping Hannigan break through a bad case of writer’s block. But it’s as producer that he once again shines, moving her away from the irritatingly simplistic song structure of some of her previous work. Here, tracks like ‘Ora’ and ‘We, The Drowned’ are given the space in which to express themselves. And the sound is very different too. No more so than on the closer, ‘Barton’, with its gorgeous mix of ambient sounds and skittish percussion. This is a much more rounded and rewarding creation than both Sea Sew and Passenger. Some of the lines are truly wondrous. “Tender is a kiss, while the dancers dip and twist”. And the voice never loses its wispy appeal. It’s a difficult album to love, but certainly one to admire and, more importantly, to listen to. Repeatedly.