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Album Review: Lisa Hannigan – At Swim

2 min read

After the tour for her second album, Passenger, Lisa Hannigan found herself impeded by writer’s block when trying to create new material. This was a problem until she received a serendipitous email from the producer and guitarist of The National, Aaron Dressner, who suggested they collaborate on her new album At Swim. They initially started sharing ideas over email, until they finally met up in Copenhagen, Denmark to write and create together. Dressner also worked as the producer of At Swim which was recorded in a church in Hudson, New York City.

Lisa Hannigan - At SwimAt Swim explores many themes; friendship, life, death, grief and love. It is absolutely captivating from start to finish.  Lisa Hannigan’s artistry is sublime throughout. Her delivery is pure and makes your soul resonate.

Hannigan wrote Prayer For The Dying for one of her close friends whose parent passed away after suffering a long illness. This song will give you chills. The chromatic bends in the vocal line are so emotive pulling between dissonance and resolution; it is stirring. When she sings the soaring line “Your heart, my heart” it is mesmerising.  It is the first single of the album and the perfect introduction to At Swim.

Snow is a beautiful ballad sharing the story of her travels with a friend. “Heading from city to sea, Just you and me, Boots creaking quietly, We would never be here again, Watching the snow falling down…” This story is so familiar and brings a flood of nostalgia. In Funeral Suit she tells a story you could get lost in.

Hannigan explores some interesting timbres throughout the album, but still manages to keep the album cohesive in its overall sound.  Undertow uses notable vocal colours, includes a banjo (or banjo-sounding) instrument. Her melismatic melodic line goes to unexpected places. Anahorish is an a cappella arrangement of the poem by the acclaimed Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. Barton combines synth, electric guitar and acoustic sounds.

At Swim is an outstanding album. Lisa Hannigan’s ethereal voice, accompanied to well crafted and stunning instrumentation, open heartedly telling stories and sharing experiences, her artistry is perfection.