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Lisa Hanningan - At Swim

It’s been five years since Lisa Hannigan’s last album the Choice Music Prize nominated “Passenger” however with her gorgeous third solo long player “At Swim” she has returned with an album that is well worth the wait.

“At Swim” came to fruition after a number of years that saw Hanningan involved in a number of diverse projects whilst creatively fulfilling also distracted her from focusing on her next album. It was the prompting of Aaron Dressner (he of The National) that provided the push she needed to get back on track. Hannigan decided to spend even more time in London as she finally got to grips with what she wanted to do with her new record, with Dressner now onboard as producer.

Given that background and other events in her personal life its not surprising that themes such as being lost, being isolated and struggling with life are at the forefront but it’s also an album that is at it’s heart about love. That mix of themes is most strikingly illustrated on “Ora” which is a majestically understated love song delivered movingly by Hannigan. 

When reviewing any Lisa Hannigan collection of songs the words that consistently spring to mind are delicate, fragile and moving and true to form “At Swim” certainly evokes such thoughts however there is also a sense of determination throughout.

Sonically varied, there’s a lot going on as on tracks such as “Lo”, “Fall” & “Tender” where Hannigan is given a beautiful background palate to layer her unique vocals onto. Every listen rewards in varying ways with different tracks grabbing your attention each time, be it the relatively upbeat chorus of “Undertow” or the underlying menace of “We, The Drowned”.

If there is an outstanding track on such a thematically tight album such as “At Swim” for me it has to be “A Prayer for the Dying”. Released as the lead single it’s lost none of it’s power in the months since it’s unveiling despite countless plays. Here more than anywhere else on the album Hannigan’s mesmerising vocals hold centre stage as she both celebrates and mourns the passing of a loved one with a performance that is both deeply vulnerable & powerful and in the grand tradition of the many great torch-song singers of the past.

However it would be remiss of me to single out any individual track as ultimately “At Swim” succeeds due to completeness of vision Hannigan sets out and evokes with every note that she sings, ably accompanied by a repertoire of musicians that let her talent shine through out.

The album closes with “Barton” which has a much more electronic flavour than the organic sounds on the rest of the album. Its a song that sees Hannigan seemingly pleading to herself to perhaps accept the imperfections that love brings with it, “Broken as it is, this is a love”. 

It’s an interesting way to bring “At Swim” to a close and would be an intriguing path to see Hannigan explore on her next album, which we hope we won’t have to wait five years for. Then again if its as compelling and moving as “At Swim” would we really complain?

‘At Swim’ is out now via Play it Again Sam and we are delighted to announce that Dolans & Seoda Shows present Lisa Hannigan at The Lime Tree Theatre on December 15th, you can buy your tickets now by clicking this link.