Lisa Hannigan: At Swim

lisa-aLisa Hannigan
At Swim
(ATO Records)

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After a period of time off and writer’s block, Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan has returned with an album so cohesive that she makes it look effortless. At Swim seems to be a darker, more mature, and more introspective record than 2008’s Sea Sew and 2011’s Passenger.
Heartache and isolation are themes that run throughout the record, and Hannigan frequently employs nature imagery to convey these feelings. “Snow” depicts a lover overpowering her as she grows listless at the end of a relationship, while “Undertow” evokes the power of a river when she wants to surrender herself to a man’s affections. “We, the Drowned” juxtaposes those lost to water to ashes, which are also a central image in the devastatingly catchy “Lo.” Whether drowned or burnt away, the end result is destruction but also rebirth.
Hannigan no doubt took some inspiration for her writing from Seamus Heaney. The poet’s “Anahorish” is here adapted in a subdued manner. Rather than add a complex score, Hannigan has instead layered her voice to beautiful effect.
If At Swim has one shortcoming, it’s that the record is too neat. Hannigan has a history of delightfully quirky instruments making their way into her songs, but other than a fun banjo line on “Undertow,” that isn’t the case here. The songs on At Swim lock together so well that “Funeral Suit” and “Barton” fail to make much of an impression by the end. Still, it proves to be a beautiful album, and there’s certainly nothing to dislike about having Hannigan back on the scene.
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About Casey Hicks

Casey Hicks toils her daylight hours away in an office high above Manhattan in order to afford nights of passionately scribbling. The first song she remembers ever hearing is "Lola" by the Kinks. She thinks this explains a lot.
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