Lisa Hannigan – Passenger
12/10/2011 § Leave a Comment
For anyone with a penchant for folk singers or Irish accents, Lisa Hannigan is something of a dream come true. Gaining early prominence through her appearances with fellow Irish singer Damien Rice, Lisa’s incomparably rich and soothing voice has left a lasting impression on many, including jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who said of her phrasing, “some of the things sound like choices that Miles [Davis] would have made”. With her first solo album, 2008′s Sea Sew, Lisa broke away from being simply a faceless backing singer on Rice’s records and showed her true potential as the genuinely delightful and competent composer she is, lacing in a feel of homegrown honesty and real authenticity in manner that only a few folk artists manage. Returning now three years later with her follow-up, Passenger, Lisa has truly become her own musician, and leaves her days of contributing to Rice’s stint in the spotlight firmly by the wayside.
Even putting aside her backstory and incredibly prominent charm, Passenger sells Lisa Hannigan as an impressive writer. Melodically, the record fluctuates between thoughtful and at times experimental folk and the kind of upbeat danceability you can and will hum or tap along to. ‘What’ll I Do’ is a stellar example of the side of Lisa’s writing that you see on the surface – fun, energetic, homemade and, with its buoyant rhythm and the scattering of blues notes in the vocal melody, lighthearted. However, ‘A Sail’, with a bass line of striking similarity to Radiohead’s ‘All I Need’ and evocatively refined and wistful vocals, has both the surreal essence of Beth Gibbons and, countering it with pizzicato violins, Lisa’s own genuinely unique style that makes you feel somewhat safe and taken care of.
Passenger doesn’t, however, doesn’t have the same lasting draw as Sea Sew, and as a whole it doesn’t get caught in your head in quite the same way. It may be argued, however, that this shows a growth in maturity, and much like Foals’ Total Life Forever, the album has a very different kind of appeal to the carefree and upbeat debut. Whilst it couldn’t necessarily be said that it is darker than its predecessor, pieces such as the stunningly orchestrated ‘Paper House’, with its whispered legato strings and playful percussion, certainly display the depth of its creator.
Whilst Lisa’s writing doesn’t have quite the same kind of appeal nor the same innocent charm it did three years ago, she has neither fatally repeated herself nor gone overboard in an effort not to do so, and it is with this in mind that I say that Passenger is Lisa’s ‘coming-of-age’ album, showing her as the fully-fledged solo musician she is.
Published on The Line of Best Fit.