Lisa Hannigan – At Swim

Album Review by Gary Kaill | 28 Jul 2016
Album title: At Swim
Artist: Lisa Hannigan
Label: Play It Again Sam
Release date: 19 Aug

As with her first two records, At Swim favours stealth over force, and its subtleties demand repeated listens. There are no showcase tunes, or at least nothing with a hook large enough to immediately add to the loyal audience she won with 2008's debut Sea Sew. But Hannigan's oeuvre requires patience and focus, and while much of this new collection is dependent on tone and texture to connect, eventually deeper qualties shine through. 

The boldy dramatised Prayer for the Dying – a classically styled torch song – and the spares keys and percussion of We the Drowned: these are songs built from, seemingly, little. Typified by the acapella Anahorish, they make much of their unadorned presentation and their understated melodics. Hannigan (here joined by The National's Aaron Dessner, who approached her to offer production support) sings with a joyous and unfettered sense of freedom. The way she delivers the closing Barton – a beautful and mesmerising elegy – is an inch away from miraculous.