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Lisa Hannigan

Sea Sew

Rating: 4.0

Label: ATO Records


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Lisa Hannigan began publicly singing alongside the haunting voice of Damien Rice, accompanying him on his debut album, O and most recent, 9. She often collaborated live with him as a vocalist and occasional musician on electric guitar, bass or drums. Though they have recently parted ways after seven years together, Hannigan should have no worry about the often-daunting task of stepping out from background microphone to just beyond the spotlight.

Hannigan grew up in Ireland and recorded her debut album, Sea Sew in just 14 days. The idea for the title came from an inspiration to sew all the lyrics and create a threaded ornament of words; she wound up sewing six of the songs and during this process realized the recurrence of sea-allusions. The entire package of voice, instrumentation and album artwork is an exquisite compliment to creative energy rising to the occasion.

Hannigan’s background in theatre is clearly displayed on Sea Saw. It is one task to sing the words accompanying the sounds created; it is another to feel them. Her voice hatches out of her young throat and pulses with each word and question.There is a simplicity to her lyrics, yet they feel like poems pushing metaphors and digested feelings through the speakers. On “I Don’t Know,” she sings, “I don’t know what you smoke or what countries you’ve been to/ If you speak any languages other than your own/ But I’d like to meet you.” The impressive staccato plucking of violin and cello become musical question marks with each suspicion.

Hannigan’s album is an onion, with layers revealing themselves through each listen and dive into the deepness of complex emotions. “Ocean and a Rock” is a perfect illustration of instruments romancing each other. Listen to the trumpet, melodica, violin, cello, percussion and bass. This is a love song that stretches through salt water and accumulated miles. It is about distance that cannot keep ones thoughts from straying.

Hannigan’s voice is unaffected by digital trickery attempting to over-produce what remains almost-perfect. Her themes are vivid stories of love, longing, and quietude. One of my favorite lines of the album is sung in “Pistachio”, “Sit down, and fire away, I know it’s tricky when you’re feeling low/ Shen you feel like your flavor has gone the way of a/ Pre-shelled pistachio.” Hannigan wrote all but one song on Sea Saw, adding to the intense grandeur of each track. Her voice is that of a siren’s call, climbing each note of intended instrument. Keeping with the theme of delicate stitching with the in and out gesture of a sewing needle, Sea Saw exhibits slowness through the honest ease of delicate beauty throughout each track. Hannigan was meant to rise from beneath the shadows of that other voice and fill an entire album with her unwavering metrical presence.

by Aimee Herman

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