Hannah Cohen comes from a modelling and photography background in New York. Having immersed herself in the Big Apple’s music scene she started to write her own material and wowing her friends at house parties. She’s now found a berth on the good ship Bella Union for her concise, cohesive debut LP, Child Bride.
It’d be disingenuous to pigeonhole her as a straight-up folk artist, for Child Bride borrows from a range of influences. Its 10 songs all stand alone perfectly well too, and each brings something unique to the album’s overall aesthetic.
Opening track Don’t Say is a hushed introduction and shows that Cohen’s time spent collaborating with producer Thomas Bartlett (The National, Antony & The Johnsons) and fellow singer-songwriter Sam Amidon was not in vain. It’s driven by a looping and gentle guitar melody that makes for a great slice of contemporary Americana. The Simplest is one of the album’s overtly sadder moments, with its mournful piano and lyrics that hint at heartache (“the simplest isn’t so simple now”) whilst Shadows starts off serenely before its chorus bursts into life. The closer, Sunrise, is incredibly elegant and one of the standouts – everything is stripped back to just Cohen and some sublime string arrangements, all to great effect.
There are also moments on Child Bride when the music is a little less lush than rugged. Carry You Under starts off with bluesy strums of electric guitar before turning into a yearning ballad complete with crashing drums. However, this is countered by some more colourful and vibrant tunes, such as the radio-friendly California – a warm slice of acoustic pop backed by splashes of piano and upbeat horns and strings – whilst Say Anything is similar in mood if a little more restrained in arrangements.
The centrepiece, despite all the varying instrumentation, orchestral flourishes and eerie atmospherics, is Cohen’s voice. She isn’t the type of singer who instantly commands attention; rather, over time, she becomes an arresting prescence. She knows what her vocal strengths are – strengths that, at times, remind of Feist – and uses them well, especially on the layered Boy + Angel, when she utilises both her softer croon and her higher-pitched falsetto wonderfully.
Child Bride is an album that should sit well in the Bella Union canon. It doesn’t leap out of the speakers, but contains moments of beauty scattered throughout. Cohen’s delicate songcraft will reward the more patient listener.