After years as a member of Damien Rice’s band, Lisa Hannigan struck out on her own with her 2008 debut, Sea Sew. It was a wonderful record that marked her out as one for the future. The follow-up well and truly confirms her as one for the present. Passenger starts as it means to go on, launching feet first into the floating brass and insistent piano of ‘Home’. As the tracks keep coming it is clear that Hannigan is enjoying herself.
On ‘A Sail’ she sings of “bad wine and too much bedside whiskey”, while the positively funky ‘Knots’ finds her “In my high heels and my old dress/with my new keys in the wrong city”. It is all too easy to pigeonhole Hannigan as yet another whimsical, fragile Irish siren. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but she is just so much more.
There is a sense of mischief and adventure about her music, which she once referred to memorably as “plinky-plonk rock”, and her excitement comes across loud and clear. FFS caught her live on her last tour and the high point was her raucous cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’. It seemed to come from nowhere and betrayed her band’s diverse influences.
On ‘O Sleep’ she teams up with Ray LaMontagne, their voices complimenting each other perfectly, while ‘Paper House’ is a reminder that Hannigan’s biggest strength is her ability to write a heartbreaking love song. The banjo-led title track, telling a story of a trip around America, is a particular high point, despite a couple of dodgy rhymes – “Walking round Chicago/I have smuggled you as cargo/In Phoenix, Arizona/I had the notion I might phone ya”.
Passenger winds up with the brilliantly simple lullaby ‘Safe Travels (Don’t Die)’ and on closer ‘Nowhere To Go’ Hannigan reassures the object of her affections: “You’ll never have nowhere to go.” On this evidence the 30-year-old will have a place in the lives of many a music fan for years to come.
Words: Sam Blackledge