Ireland’s Next Conor Oberst?
Despite being a member of Damien Rice’s band, Lisa Hannigan more than manages to carve out a name for herself with her new release At Swim, a lyrically haunting and equally engaging record. If fast paced music and synth heavy pop songs are one’s musical preference, glide past this album, but be aware of the reverence in which Hannigan creates her music.
This record is a departure for most Indie Pop records. Hannigan’s slow songs, minimalist presentation and vocals similar to Cocorosie provide a different kind of musical experience than one may be used to.
The record opens with the song “Fall.” The nature of the track serves as a misleading introduction to the record. Although, it is not an entirely cheery song, it is the most upbeat on the album. From there, Hannigan slowly descends into a lyrical and instrumental melancholy. Songs like “Undertow” and “Funeral Suit” creep along at an unhurried rate and her girlish, mumbling drawls, hypnotize the listener. “Prayer for the Dying” has the atmospheric tendencies of a Fleet Foxes song with its perfectly placed harmonies, repetitive piano and Hannigan’s vocals switching from that of a freak folk singer to a performer in a jazz club. The change in Hannigan’s vocals between tracks is so effortless, that in no way is the listener taken out from the song in a self-realizing way. Rather they are gently ushered from one song to the next without being conscious of the changes she makes.
The album moves at a somewhat glacial pace, but patience is key. When things seem to be plodding, Hannigan hits the listener with lyrics like “We, the drowned/Hold our hallowed hearted ground/Till we swallow ourselves down/Again, Again” on the song “We, the Drowned.” She makes use of alliteration in her music and even when it may seem cliché, she breaches past it and creates a catchy and expressive phrase.
On this record, Hannigan accomplishes something not many musicians can. She broke away from the thing that propelled her into the industry (playing for Damien Rice’s band) and whittled out a place for herself among the debris that pollutes the airwaves with her impressive vocals and her even more impressive skill as a musician and lyricist.