November 2, 2009

spin you into my curls today :: Lisa Hannigan in-store performance on a Sunday afternoon

After I peeled off the rainbows and scrubbed the last traces of red lipstick off the morning after Halloween, I set out to find the Borders bookstore in the farthest reaches of Denver suburbia I’ve yet had the disoriented pleasure of venturing to. Irish songbird Lisa Hannigan was performing a free in-store at one o’clock on Sunday and I was thrilled to get to see her in such an intimate setting.

Lisa’s voice is absolutely, quietly, and thoroughly devastating. I first heard her, as most of us did, singing the haunting counter-melodies and duets with Damien Rice on his stunning breakout album O in 2003. In addition to her captivating parts on songs like “The Blower’s Daughter,” did you ever hear the final hidden a cappella track at the very end of that album? Like whoa:

Silent Night – Lisa Hannigan

Since she parted ways with Damien, I’ve been following her work with the Cake Sale charity benefit and a handful of unreleased works that would occasionally surface between her and Rice. But Sea Sew (out now on ATO) is an album I’ve been waiting for, and although it’s been out for months now, Sunday was the first time I had really let the whole thing come to life and dance and grieve for me in a cohesive way. I now am sure it’s one of my favorites of the year.

There’s an unvarnished air of clean-scrubbed honesty and serious inquiry on this album. In addition to set highlights like the charming imagination of “I Don’t Know,” and a new song called “Passenger” that traces her travels around the USA with someone on her mind, Lisa closed the set with the final song on her album, “Lille,” just as I was fervently hoping she would.

I first heard and wrote about this song a year ago when things seemed much rockier and sharper in my life. The line “went to war every morning,” got me then and still gets me now. If you’ve read this blog with any regularity, you know that sometimes my eyes tend to water (!) with the right gut-punch of a song, and I found myself sitting next to the Christmas ornament display in a brightly lit Borders, blinking back tears at the way she delivers this song live. It’s absolutely perfect.

But this time, amazingly, instead of feeling the most affinity to the lines about going to war, in this year I felt it most when she sang, “what you said in my arms … what i read in the charms that i loved durably, now it’s dead and gone, and i am free…”

Lille – Lisa Hannigan

sea sewYou must must must please purchase her new album Sea Sew. Nominated for the prestigious UK Mercury Prize this year, and already platinum in Ireland, the album is laced with clever word pictures, coyly delightful musings on love and life, a kaleidoscope of instruments (“Is there anything she doesn’t play?!” my sister asked me, as Lisa picked up a keyboard with a windpipe to blow into) but most of all — that gorgeous, gorgeous voice.

I’m in love, even more than I was before. Not a bad outcome for a Halloween weekend.

Ocean And A Rock
…i feel you in the pocket of my overcoat
my fingers wrap around your words
they take the shape of games we play

i feed your words through my buttonholes
pin them to my fingerless gloves
green and prone to fraying

thoughts of you warm my bones
I’m on the way, I’m on the phone
let’s get lost, me and you
an ocean and a rock is nothing to me

i keep you in the pockets of my dresses and
the bristles of my brushes spin you
into my curls today

I spoon you into my coffee cup
spin you through a delicate wash
I wear you all day…

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  • Thanks for the video! It was great seeing her having a great time, as well. Definitely a unique talent.

    Mainer — November 3, 2009 @ 2:47 am

  • Lovely. Makes you long for the itinerant life of the traveling musician and their life affirming secret smiles.

    Russell — November 3, 2009 @ 9:51 am

  • Not sure I could be any more jealous.

    Ben — November 3, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  • Thanks for sharing!

    Lisa is definitely a uniquely beautiful artist on a scene over-crowded with posers and wannabes. No dubbing, no auto tune or processing, no muli-track layering. Just a stellar band juggling an odd assortment of “creaky and wheezy” instruments fronted by a voice that comes straight from the heavens. And the resultant music is very pure – an incredible balance of fragility and power. Truly great stuff!

    jimbo — November 4, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  • For any Bay Area readers, she is doing an in-store on Sunday at 1 pm at the Apple Store in SF on Market/Powell.

    Steve Mikalis — November 5, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  • YES! I saw that. Bay Area peeps, you must go!

    browneheather — November 5, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  • I saw Lisa in Chicago and what an outstanding performance. I’m jealous of those able to see her preform at an in store. To be up close with her woul be great. She has such a great voice and her music is incredible! If you get the chance to see her, do so you won’t regret it.

    Andy — November 5, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  • I was there at Borders and I too had a very hard time holding back the tears…I felt a bit silly. Now I heard you had the same feelings I feel better LOL I wish I could of went to her concert!!!! *darnit* Great write up I shall come back to read more of your blog :) Thanks!

    De'Anna — November 6, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  • Hooray. Thanks for giving Lisa a plug. She’s amazing.

    Rory McDonnell — November 7, 2009 @ 11:52 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

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