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Lisa Hannigan - Passenger

Lisa Hannigan, Passenger

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

LISA Hannigan first shot to prominence with the beautiful debut album Sea Sew (a long-time IndieLondon favourite). She now follows that up with the equally enchanting Passenger.

A more confident (by her own admission) record than her Mercury Price nominated debut, it’s an album that reflects “those loves, heartbreaks, confusions and friendships that we take with us through life, over years and continents, enduring the passage of time”.

It’s therefore more honest and a fuller representation of who Hannigan is than Sea Sew, even though she describes that record as the most honest she could have written at that time… when the overriding desire was to seem ‘happy and confident’.

Passenger is more eclectic, drifting from the Southern stomp of Knots to the mandolin-backed backed breeziness of Passenger, via the acoustic introspection of Little Bird or the shimmering pop of A Sail.

It’s an album that delivers a breathtaking showcase of Hannigan’s beautiful Irish vocals… by turns tender, at others so sweet they could melt butter while putting a smile across the face.

Passenger is, in many ways, a stunning album and a bit of a master-work from Hannigan, despite being only her sophomore session.

Kicking off amid the horns and piano arrangements of emotional opening track Home, which reflects Hannigan’s life on the road in suitably intelligent fashion, it then drops the stunning A Sail, where Hannigan’s vocals are at their most subtle yet warm and the supporting instrumentation builds in typically layered fashion to really sweep you along.

Former single Knots picks up the pace still further, offering that Southern stomp with screeching strings and lyrical tales of a debauched, whiskey-soaked night… and a lived-in, husky vocal to match (you can imagine Hannigan taking to the microphone with that morning after feel).

What’ll I Do opens with a flirtatious guitar lick, a wisping, playful harmony vocal and a similarly snappy percussion background. It then proceeds to deliver another melody-strewn gem, complete with ‘oh oh oh-oh hey hey’ chorus and the type of dusky vocal that KT Tunstall would love.

O Sleep is as gentle and quiet and relaxing as you’d imagine from the song’s title… a near lullaby that is all the more remarkable for being a duet with Ray LaMontagne (whose vocals compliment Hannigan’s perfectly).

Paper House melts your resistance with the opening delivery of “we mended our heavy hearts”, Little Bird breaks your heart with its honest simplicity, and Passenger genuinely enchants with its lovely mandolin and late stabs of brass.

Nowhere To Go, meanwhile, draws the album to a suitably fragile close, Hannigan’s tender delivery accompanied by the soft strums of an acoustic guitar and the odd piano chord, thereby allowing her thoughtful lyricism to take centre-stage.

If there’s a minor criticism, it’s that perhaps the album could have used one or two more fuller bodies songs like A Sail and Knots. But that seems churlish given the overall quality… or maybe even greedy given that you didn’t want it to end after just 10 tracks.

But such is our burgeoning love affair with Hannigan at the moment, you really don’t want the album to end.

Download picks: A Sail, Knots, What’ll I Do, Passenger, Nowhere To Go, Paper House

Track listing:

  1. Home
  2. A Sail
  3. Knots
  4. What’ll I Do
  5. O Sleep
  6. Paper House
  7. Little Bird
  8. Passenger
  9. Safe Travels (Don’t Die)
  10. Nowhere To Go