In my MTH-V entry on Damien Rice, I mentioned that Lisa Hannigan, his secret weapon, was arguably my favorite part of his output. After parting ways with Rice in 2007, Ms. Hannigan soon led her own ensemble. Without being hyperbolic, I can safely say that hers is one of my absolute favorite female voices, and has been for years. I’ll reiterate: “equal parts smoky jazz singer and Greek siren.” But her voice isn’t the only thing that shines in her solo work – she’s also a first-rate songwriter and a good instrumentalist.
Her debut album was released via ATO Records. Both Sea Sew (2008) and the more sonically robust Passenger (2011) are consistently solid. Both of them are albums I can easily put on repeat, neither skipping songs nor growing tired of the material. Whereas Rice’s material is largely glum, Hannigan is often sunny and playful – but not overly so – even with more solemn topics (see “Pistachio”). Similar to Bon Iver, her instrumentation features much variety given the number of musicians. I’m amazed she’s not more well known – her music and voice are infectious, and she and her music are cute as a button. I think that juxtaposition is why I like her so much: her voice has incredible depth and maturity, and yet her songs are youthful and catchy.
I’ve included live performances of two songs from each of her albums: Sea Sew and Passenger, respectively. All are from different dates and locations – both formal and informal – so I’ll embed them in “album order.” (Fans of Damien Rice may recognize bassist Shane Fitzsimons. If you listen to the studio albums, you’ll also recognize cellist Vyvienne Long.) Unlike a few previous MTH-V entries, I opted to not use a Later…with Jools Holland performance. I dare you to not watch/listen to these more than once…
“An Ocean And A Rock”
“Passenger” (A charming little street performance in Toronto. Imagine walking past this on your way to work!)