Album of the week

Poetic tunes

Singer Lydia Loveless moves away from her Americana roots and shines with a new sound on her fourth album Real.
Singer Lydia Loveless moves away from her Americana roots and shines with a new sound on her fourth album Real.PHOTO: SOME GIRLS STYLE

Lisa Hannigan puts music to a Seamus Heaney poem while Lydia Loveless pens lyrics that touch on the heart's longing

Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan's third album, At Swim, is a masterful balance of light and dark, melancholy and joy.

Her voice is a wonder, soaring and otherworldly on the haunting Prayer For The Dying, earthy and grounded on Snow.

A layered and lush ambience permeates the songs on the album, co-produced with The National's Aaron Dessner, as well as enhances her stirring vocals.

The sombre piano/horns/drums build-up on We The Drowned ("We, the drowned/Hold our hollow hearted ground/Till we swallow ourselves down/Again") is heartrending , as is her take on Seamus Heaney's poem Anahorish (1972), in which her layered voice ascends, unhindered by any instrumentations.

Lo is a spooky yet uplifting ode to anxiety and insomnia ("Every night of late I'm wide awake/Because I feel that every last mistake that I have made/Has me in pieces").

Rhythmic, electronic glitches underscore her quietly exhilarating vocals on album-closer Barton.

The Esplanade's Mosaic Music Weekend festival this week will be all the more atmospheric for her double-bill concert with Patrick Wolf.

Across the Atlantic from Hannigan, Ohio singer Lydia Loveless shines with a new sound on Real, her fourth album. She moves further away from her Americana roots - only one song, the twang-heavy European, can be classified as country.

  • Singer Lydia Loveless moves away from her Americana roots and shines with a new sound on her fourth album Real.FOLK

    AT SWIM

    Lisa Hannigan

    Hoop Recordings/Pias

    4 stars


    Singer Lydia Loveless moves away from her Americana roots and shines with a new sound on her fourth album Real.ALTERNATIVE COUNTRY/ROCK

    REAL

    Lydia Loveless

    Bloodshot Records

    4 stars

The raw, country-punk grittiness of her earlier releases is no more; instead her new tunes are wrapped in a pop-rock sheen, with the hook-heavy and gleaming production bringing her music a new clarity.

Her canny storytelling recalls country greats such as Loretta Lynn, while sonically, she takes cues from female rock icon Chrissie Hynde, even adopting Hynde's vibrato in songs such as More Than Ever.

Naming the new album Real is apt. Her lyrics, touching on the heart's longings and existential dread, can be brutally honest, hopeful and, at the same time, pragmatic.

Same To You narrates an abusive relationship ("I can tell by the colour of your face you're mad/I'll have to take a few so I don't talk back"). Out On Love sees her trying to come to terms with fleeting love.

Her assertiveness on the title track ("Well, I know he's got bigger plans/But I really need to feel him/And I know just how she feels/Cause I know just what you do") is tempered by resignation on the acoustic Clumps ("Love turns into lust/And milk turns into clumps").

This can only enhance her standing as alternative-country's rising troubadour.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2016, with the headline 'Poetic tunes'. Print Edition | Subscribe