Review Summary: Sea Sew is a delightful indie/folk-pop effort from the former Damien Rice back up singer that not only establishes herself as a solo artist but as one to keep your eye on, at that.
It’s quite hard to think of Lisa Hannigan outside of the Damien Rice back up singer context. Her work on both of his full lengths, O and 9 was outstanding, providing a contrast to Damien Rice’s depressing, emotion-wrought vocals. After doing a lead vocal part on 9 Crimes, fans everywhere cried in anguish as the pair announced their professional split, citing their relationship "has run its creative course". A year and a half later and Lisa releases Sea Sew, an album that not only proves herself as a solo artist but as one to keep your eye on, at that.
An important thing to note is that Sea Sew is nothing like Lisa’s work on O or 9. Whilst the previously mentioned were depressing and moody, Sea Sew is, more often than not, uplifting and bouncy, absolutely packed with delightful arrangements and playful melodies. Her time with Damien must’ve certainly made her weary, as her performances on this album cast away the listless quality of some of her previous work and display a Lisa that is bursting with creativity. Her arrangements stray away from the typical singer songwriter methods and although not completely original, contain enough quirks to demand the listeners’ interest.
Accompanied by her guitar, a cello, violins, trumpets and a piano, the best arrangements are often those that use simple pieces to full emphasis, such as in “Pistachio” where a complimenting piano and trumpet duo gracefully float behind her voice. Whilst not complex, nor technically difficult, they way the three pieces play off each other make the song, creating a wonderful sense of rapture.
Lisa Hannigan has the sort of voice that just seems to float along, like a boat slowly drifting with the wind to its own pace and direction, yet she manages to control it with ease and proficiency, reflecting a musical maturity far beyond her years. Her low-key melodic approach and ethereal charm on songs like the opener “Ocean and a Rock” and “Lille” make for a mesmerizing performances. She also proves she’s still capable of the intimate, breathy style that made her so adored by Damien Rice followers, as she displays in songs such as “Venn Diagram”, as she sings longingly, “sleeping as we do on opposite sides of a venn diagram”.
Sea Sew is not only a vast improvement on her work with Damien Rice but also an exceptional indie-folk record that sets the bar high for other singer-songwriter work in 2008. Lisa Hannigan proves to be more than just a back up singer and creates a distinct style while doing so; a trait that will be sure to win over many fans, new and old.