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Lauded and celebrated in her native Ireland, and with success in the United States, many of us in the UK still remember Lisa Hannigan as the singer from Damien Rice's band. Harsh, considering she released two critically acclaimed solo albums after her appearance back in 2006 on Rice's album 9. Sea Sew, released in 2008, was a raw and creaky collection of songs recorded in the Irish countryside. Passenger, the 2011 follow-up was a fuller, more rounded affair with lyrics referencing an itinerary of emotional voyages. Now, five years on, we have At Swim, a moody undulating collection produced in collaboration with Te National's Aaron Dressner. It opens with Fall, the rueful start of a journey that frequently references loss and isolation via tracks likePrayer For Te Dying and Undertow.But it is also an album that is unmistakably about love, and Hannigan's voice takes on a beauty and a velvety richness that reminds at times of Sharon Van Etten – bewitching and golden, and deliciously moreish. Tis is an intentionally capricious collection that leads you deep into the forest yet emerges into sunlit clearings ready to bathe you in the warmth and richness of late summer evenings. Gorgeous.



Much lauded and hotly tipped alt- troubadour, Ryley Walker has a voice to melt hearts and the dexterity of a roomful of guitarists. Tis Chicago boy has a transatlantic early 70’s sound, Ryley’s expertise and vision present a hefty eight track album feeling pin-sharp yet relaxed. Prog-folk opener Te Halfwit In Me combines acoustic and electric guitars, electric organ and crazy jazz-country percussion to build a bucolic, timeless piece offering new layers each listen. Te frequently raised similarity to Tim Buckley is rubber stamped on Funny Ting She Said, but his sound is capable of absorbing influences and emerging freshly minted. Te design deserves a mention, its beautifully simple artwork perfectly evokes the sound within, conjuring thoughts of late night cover loving while the turntable spins. Sullen Mind is a psychedelic raga infused piece of jet black intensity, slow and so very heavy. Te Roundabout lifts the mood and with it your spirits, playful lyrics and hypnotic country blues, Age Old Tale closes the record with further diverse familiarity, harp and double bass convey a lullaby from another dimension. Blissful sounds for sure, on Golden Singshe has fashioned a moving, at times monumental album with genuinely enduring songs.



I'm a big fan of husband and wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks' Te Handsome Family and new album Unseen is, on initial listening, a steady and cohesive work which whilst not having tracks with the immediacy and impact of previous classics such as Weightless Again,and Bottomless Holehas slow burners that worm their way into the head and rewards repeated plays. It's a grower. Opening with new single Gold it starts in familiar, hauntingly descriptive territory ("Lying in the weeds with a bullet in my gut, watching dollar bills flying away in the dust") it almost reads like a screenplay whilstBack in My Dayis possibly my favourite with their characteristic soundtrack quality enhanced by a mournful cello. Brett's deep vocals are lead on most tracks whilst songwriter Rennie's notable vocal appearances higher in the mix are Tiny Tinaand the ghostlySea Rose. I also heard restrained dobro, mandolin, banjo, ukelele bass, cello, pedal steel, drums and piano plus Brett's distinctive Telecaster sound. Te descriptive storytelling songwriting, sparse delivery and a sound that always evokes their New Mexico homeland paint vivid cinematic pictures. Beautifully atmospheric late night listening, especially on headphones.

14 / August 2016/

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