'Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences'

“Please don’t bungee jump or ignore a strange lump”…Lisa Hannigan @LisaHBand returns with more light-hearted lyrical mastery on second album ‘Passenger’

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Lisa Hannigan returns with more light-hearted, yet fully-formed lyrical mastery on second album, ‘Passenger.’ The 10-track piece (11-track via iTunes) was recorded in just one week during a creative pilgrimage to a slightly windswept North Wales in early 2011.

1. ‘Home’

Word is very quickly spreading about the album’s opening track and it is, I’m sure, going to be a strong contender for a future single. In just the same way as ‘Ocean and a Rock’ set debut album ‘Sea Sew’ ‘s tone perfectly and delicately, so too does ‘Home.’ The track opens to a sweeping and orchestral swell, with visions of Hannigan setting sail from her native Ireland over to America to begin her last tour.  This time however, she’s not alone on her journey and speaks about the fact that her and her fellow traveller will not be coming back anytime soon, their possessions being merely those that they stand up in. Hannigan talks of sewing or pinning people and places to her, so that she might carry them around with her, for better or for worse; “…And oh, every promise that we broke, is sewn to our clothes, now we are pinned to the wind I suppose.” I like the concept of never being able to escape from your actions and words, despite how far you might travel or who you might be travelling with. I’ve played this track several times already and it is fast becoming one of my most fond favourites.

2. ‘A Sail’

This is the most serene of all the tracks on the album, yet still manages to remain upbeat with double bass and fiddle accompaniment. Hannigan describes her sound as “plinky plonk rock” which will make perfect sense upon listening to this track. It is hard to imagine a more perfect sound to accompany such rousing and rich string instruments than that of Hannigan’s voice and I am yet to hear a contender to her title of Ireland’s favourite folk queen.

3. ‘Knots’

‘Knots’ was the first single to be released from the album and was accompanied by a quirky and colourful video, involving Hannigan being doused with spray paint whilst performing the track with just her ukulele and dwindling pride. It is all good natured fun however and no Hannigans were injured during production. This track allows her to showcase her technical proficiency in multiple pitches and impressive skills on the wonderful ukulele, as she recalls what appears to be the morning after a particularly hazy yet heavenly night before. She sits on a stoop with her high heels and her old dress, next to a companion whom she claims to have lost herself in, haven’t we all after a few too many Schnapps.

4. ‘What’ll I Do’

I’ve commented in previous reviews as to the wonder of Hannigan’s live band accompaniment. Gavin Glass and Shane Fitzsimons are just two of the multi-talented members of Hannigan’s ensemble and the chemistry and timing between the players is truly something to behold in a live setting. This punchy number will be particularly special when performed on Hannigan’s upcoming cathedral tour of the UK; I will be reviewing the Salford date at St Philips, so I am presently counting down the days. The track speaks about how every day things can seem difficult or challenging when a particular person is not around, ” …What’ll I do now that you’re gone, my boat won’t row, my bus doesn’t come.” Such occurences, of course, being purely circumstantial as opposed to an unfortunate twist of romantic fate, yet I enjoy the sentiment very much. Hannigan’s music often focuses on long distance relationships and the feeling of missing someone or something back home; this album continues the tradition, with imagery such as, “I have the fingers, you’ve got the thumb” and unless you happen to be of the feline persuasion, we all know the benefits of opposable thumbs.

5. ‘O Sleep’ featuring Ray LaMontagne

We are treated to a softer tone in LaMontagne‘s vocals on this delicate and dreamy track, a tone which compliments that of Hannigan quite pleasingly; there could only ever be one perfectly complementary vocal for Hannigan in my eyes and that shall forever remain, the equally as haunting, Damien RiceLaMontagne, on this occasion however, fits the bill most sufficiently and it would be both unfair and fruitless to compare the two artists.

6. ‘Paper House’

This is one of my favourite tracks from the album, due largely to its storytelling quality and to the unmistakeably Irish lilt in Hannigan’s voice. The track focuses on a past relationship which blossomed in a paper house on the edge of Dublin, the foundations I’m guessing being purely metaphorical, unless the Taoiseach has come up with a novel, yet meteorologically-flawed solution to getting Ireland’s upwardly-mobile on the property ladder.  The protagonists of the story are young, having but each other and the theme of temporary bliss appears to be recurrent here. I should note that this implied theme never comes across as cynicism, which I believe is once again a result of Hannigan’s pure and eternally-hopeful take on modern folk.

7. ‘Little Bird’

This beautifully composed track serves as a soft dedication to an old friend or perhaps former partner, touching upon past harsh words that had been shared, yet acknowledging the fondness that still remained. Both parties left the friendship or union equally inspired by the other, yet somehow still experience the same feelings of loneliness, perhaps a creative loneliness or loss of appetite  for a passion which they once felt. Hannigan has never publicly stated that her songwriting is particularly autobiographical, but her lyrics would certainly seem to echo or mirror events and relationships which she could quite realistically have experienced…draw your own conclusions with this one.

8. ‘Passenger’

I first heard this track performed live on Hannigan’s last tour of the UK. ‘Passenger’  has the most traditional Irish folk sound on the album, which is probably why I can’t help but deem it to be my favourite. Hannigan namechecks several US towns and cities which she visited whilst writing this track and the album in its entirety. As she travels from place to place, the landscape may change but the focus of her mind and heart does not: that certain someone back home. The track echoes debut album favourites, ‘Venn Diagram’ and ‘Ocean and a Rock’ in their heartfelt dedication and emotional longing, but Hannigan again manages to infuse a dash of comedy to the proceedings, as only she can. Definitely one of the stand-out tracks on the album for me.

9. ‘Safe Travels (Don’t Die)’

I fell in love with this track on the first listen. Hannigan successfully delivers a combination of cute comedy and  poignant references in this quirky take on the traditional goodbye. Hannigan’s voice has a genuine and warm quality, revealing even the most carefully hidden of lyrical messages. My favourite lines include, “please don’t bungee jump, or ignore a strange lump” and “and I would be sorry if due to your hurry, you were hit by a lorry.” This will be a joy to listen to at a live show and would make a great closing track to lighten the mood post-show.

10. ‘Nowhere To Go’

Hannigan’s voice is the shining star of this track for me; it almost feels formulaic to talk about a theme or possible inspiration, such is the emotive power of Hannigan’s dazzling vocal narration. Luckily however for lovers of mathematics everywhere, I shall stick to my aforementioned formula, as the theme of this track resonates quite strongly with me. Hannigan speaks about your heart holding more than your hand and describes someone as wearing, “…so many hearts on your sleeve.” The subject of the track never has nowhere to go and what they feel inside far outweighs their material or physical possession. Imaginative Writing graduate that I am, I read this track to be a metaphor for the universal minefield that is, the modern relationship: the longing to feel any sort of connection or common ground which would seem to validate the authenticity of that relationship and the vicious circle that is consequently summoned – the temporary relief that the discovery of a connection administers and the subconscious fear that what you actually feel (the connection) is what you choose to feel, rather than what you truly possess in the cold light of day. Or it could be about being bored on a Saturday night because all of your mates have gone out and you’re skint…

Tickets for Lisa Hannigan’s upcoming UK tour can be purchased via the link below: / /

shelleyhanveywriter 🙂


Written by shelleyhanveywriter

October 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for this review! I was wondering what Lisa is up to after the end of Lisa and Damien – need to check out that album.


    December 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm

  2. Hi there, thanks for reading! I currently have the album in my car and am getting a little obsessive about it. I do love Lisa. What are your thoughts on Cannonball being the new X Factor song…I’m not too happy 😦 x


    December 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm

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