Single Review: Lisa Hannigan – Prayer for the Dying

By on Thursday, 16th June 2016 at 1:00 pm

Veteran Irish songstress Lisa Hannigan has just previewed her upcoming new album ‘At Swim’ with the release of the album’s first single, a haunting, elegant track called ‘Prayer for the Dying’. If this first sample is any indication of the full record, ‘At Swim’ will see Hannigan moving definitively away from the quaint and folksy DIY quality of her previous two albums, 2008’s ‘Sea Sew’ and 2011’s ‘Passenger’.

The lush instrumental backdrop of rich, round piano tones, wailing slide guitar and gently rocking percussion in ‘Prayer for the Dying’ might be a bit unexpected from Hannigan. But it is perhaps less so from her producer on ‘At Swim’, The National’s guitarist Aaron Dessner. For her own part, Hannigan’s vocals on here feel much more self-assured here than they have in the past. She has done away with her previous timid whisper, singing this powerful lament in a delicate but resonant full-voiced tone. Her deftly executed half-tone slurs in the verse melody and the echoing refrain “your heart / my heart” immediately bring to mind the vocal strength and emotional impact of Patsy Cline.

Speaking of the full album ‘At Swim’, Hannigan says it its press release that it’s “in part about homesickness and isolation as well as about love.” She wrote it while living away from home, without her “usual anchors and points of reference” to use as a guide, which perhaps was the inspiration for the album’s title. Guidance came for her in the form of producer Dessner, who helped her record the album in upstate New York. “He didn’t want it to sound too pretty,” Hannigan says. “He wanted it to have a texture rather than have big arcing melodies.” In ‘Prayer for the Dying’, the pair have achieved elements of both.


Lisa Hannigan’s third album ‘At Swim’ is due for release on the 19th of August via PIAS in the UK and ATO Records in North America. Hannigan is currently playing a run of live dates in Ireland; you can find details here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Lisa Hannigan can be found by clicking here.


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