Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
Damien Rice’s 9 was a much lesser album than its predecessor O for one major reason: a lack of Lisa Hannigan throughout. The areas where she appeared were the album’s highlights ‘9 Crimes’ for one, but the album suffered without her. It shall be interesting to see will Damien’s next album be the same, as it is guaranteed to have absolutely no Lisa after their acrimonious split. But after playing second fiddle to Damien for so long (Vivien was first fiddle!), can she cut it on her own? On the basis of first single ‘Lille’, which I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, proves that yes, she can.
The album Sea Sew furthers this. The songs themselves are nothing special, but Lisa’s voice is. It’s haunting and beautiful. It’s like a mother’s embrace, warm and caring, and extremely comfortable. Even after the last song (‘Lille’) has ended, it still lingers on.
There are elements of what I see as the neo-folk revival (c.f. Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, and the rest) throughout. It’s like all these people finally discovered Nick Drake and Kate and Anna McGarrigle. This is no bad thing. ‘Venn Diagram’ is a splendid tune and flows effortly on from opener ‘Ocean and a Rock’. ’Venn Diagram’ ends with a trembling beauty, a sort of sadness, but a simultaneous sense of freedom. Kind of like Lisa and Damien so.
‘I Don’t Know is the best example of this neo-folk quality. It’s the best song on the album, and a certainty for a future radio album. I can envision it now advertising something where people are skipping along the road either to buy a beer or a television. It also could well be the best song by a Irish artist released this year.
The album isn’t perfect however. ‘Sea Song’ has great instrumentals, but it’s a bit too lingering as a whole, and fails to hold interest for the entire song. It seems a bit erratic throughout. There’s a nursery-rhyme quality to some of the songs, one of which is ‘Splishy Splashy’ which never seems to expand from its original concept, and stays in a comfort zone. ‘Courting Blues’ is a horrible keen of a song, and would remind you of wakes after funerals in the nineteenth century. ‘Keep It All’ counteracts these, and seems focused yet interesting, and the spidery melody is a wonderful foundation for Lisa’s voice.
The failings are minor points; overall the album is a strong debut. I was expecting it to be quite whiney, but Lisa has proved me wrong, and in the process made a fairly decent folk-pop album.