Wednesday 5 August 2009

Review: Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

This is the first album I've reviewed here on The Happiness Machine so it may take a while to settle on a consistent format but for the moment I'm going to work from the outside in and look at cover art then go through the tracklist.

For many, having physical copies of a CD is becoming increasingly less important, however I find there is still no greater joy than opening a brand new CD and analysing the artwork and inlay. Depending on how much effort the artist has put into their inlay this can sometimes be a let down, however 'Sea Sew' feels like it has had hours of thought and care poured into it. The sleeve and many of the images within are all sewn and knitted by Lisa and Frances Hannigan giving a DIY/homemade feel to the whole thing. Although it may be said a picture is worth a thousand words, the inclusion of all the lyrics (Also sewed) is a welcome bonus.

Having been in the public eye (or at least ear) providing vocals on several Damien Rice tracks, Hannigan struck out on her own after an unfortunate incident while on tour forcing her to part ways with the singer. 'Sea Sew' is a clear indication that this was a great career move whether intentional or not. 'Ocean and a Rock' is a strong opener that sets the tone of the album with its tender vocals, lush instrumentation and off kilter time signature. The second track 'Venn Diagram' is a mid-paced folksy number which is once again invigorated by the quality of the instrumentation. However on track three things really kick up a gear, 'Sea Song' is a highlight of this album, using a flamenco twist to great effect and providing welcome change to a slightly darker tone. Jump on two tracks and its hard not to smile at jaunty soon-to-be-single-if-not-already 'I Don't Know'. Another quick change brings the album into to its second half with the slightly sinister sounding 'Keep it all'. A haunting version of Bert Jansch's 'Courting Blues' follows, turning the originals upbeat guitar into melancholy strings and ethereal vocals that wash over the listener. 'Pistachio' and 'Teeth' are both nice, well-crafted songs but seem to lack some of the spark that comes through on the rest of the album. The gentle tinkling of the xylophone (or glockenspiel, I'm not quite sure which) combined with the dreamy lullabye-esque rhythm of lead single 'Lillie' brings the album to close.


This album is one of the best buys I've made in quite a while. Coming in at an average 40 mins its easy to listen to it through then flick back to track 1 and start again. Hannigan avoids the usual trap of the singer-songwriter genre by making nearly every song sound unique and different from the rest of the album while still maintaining a signature sound. Well placed tonal changes ensure the listener doesn't get bored. Although a nod must be given to the many accompanying musicians such as Vivienne Long for her excellent cello work, the songs still feel like they could work in a solo capacity. An excellent debut from a soon-to-be-huge musician.

4.5 Handsewn Dice out 5

Also if you want to catch her live she's playing at Electric Picnic (4th-6th September) and there's another string of dates here

Lisa Hannigan - Sea Song


Liliana said...

Hi there!
I don't know the singer, but the cd cover is funny. :) I agree with you, there's nothing like opening a brand new cd box and going through all the details, reading all the 'thank yous', getting to know who did what... Too bad that people don't care about that anymore.

Sinister said...

Who's been nicking MY scoring system...?

And yeah, boo to the digital age of music, cd artwork and the physicality of an album is a beautiful thing, plus i'll agree this album is nice, though 4.5? 90%? Really?

ChrisNoise said...

Its creative borrowing and yeah 4.5 out of 5. Its been stuck on my Ipod all week. I can't stop listening to it.