Lisa Hannigan’s debut album Sea Sew has been available in Irelandand the United States for some time now. She’s not unfamiliar to therest of us, however, having served as backing singer for Damien Rice’sO and 9 albums. This gives you a fair idea of the musical genre in which shefinds herself, though she seems a lot happier than Rice. Well, most people are,so that’s not saying too much.
For more of a clue, you could point to the fact that she hasrecorded a duet with Snow Patrol front man Gary Lightbodythat was featured on television hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy.There is, of course, a nice parallel between Hannigan, who is of theNorah Jones school, and this most nefarious of televisionshows. From a distance, you despise its anti-intellectual obsessionwith personal relationships and its simpering take on life. Up close,the charm offensive tends to wash away your objections. Unless youreally cling to them, of course.
So too with Hannigan. She’s got a beautiful, rich, warm voiceas well as a quite wonderful musical sensibility. It’s just that she’sstuck on one speed-setting: hotel lounge/waiting area. And she seems tosing about love an awful lot.
I Don’t Know, which crops up midwaythrough the album, is a perfect example. It starts out with apromisingly gothic run on the violin, then shifts gear into a tweelittle pop song about wanting to get to know a man: “I don’t know whatyou smoke, or what countries you have been to. If you speak anylanguages other than your own. I’d like to meet you”.
There’s a whole lot of stuff she doesn’t know about this guy, sufficeto say. She does know that she wants to cook for him though. There’sonly one possible reaction, really: guiltily tap your feet while yourinner voice points out in scalding terms that it’s sad that so manyfemale artists still seem to feel the need to sing about love andbeing in the kitchen.
That’s all there is to this album, really. It’s a guilty pleasure.Hannigan is much like Feist in her pop sensibilities, justwithout the indie credentials and spiky subject matter. It’s aconfection. Which makes a song like Pistachio all the moreappropriate. It seems, for all the world, to be about eating theeponymous nut when you are feeling sad. Teeth, likewise, hasn’t reallygot any, even though it’s probably the toughest track on the album.Lille wraps things up in the sighing manner with which proceedingswere opened.
All this shouldn’t be read as overly critical: Hannigan is talentedand Sea Sew is a pretty album. It’s just if there is a lot of heart inthe music, there’s not a lot of brain. She’s understandably massivewith a certain crowd, but is probably notgoing to sit well with the people who prefer their folk mistresses tohave a little more edge. She probably doesn’t care – supplying a songfor the Annals of McDreamy and McSteamy (Grey’s Anatomy) is nodoubt making her rich beyond her wildest dreams.