Two narratives will dominate discussion of Hannah Cohen’s Child Bride. The first situates her within a lineage of female singer-songwriters. The second recounts Cohen’s past life as a model before explaining the album’s emergence from a dizzyingly fashionable New York scene comprising artists like Ryan McGinley and Terry Richardson as well as a stable of the city’s finest musicians. But both approaches, straying too far from her music, fail to do Cohen’s record justice.
Child Bride is engagingly varied. The record combines achingly heartfelt, elegiac ballads like ‘Don’t Say’ and ‘Sorry’ with upbeat tunes like ‘California’ and it is testament to the flexibility of Cohen’s songwriting that the former never feel indulgent nor the latter superficial. Her voice, too, roves surefooted over the album’s changes of emotional altitude. Cohen possesses a charming but idiosyncratic delivery which by turns shies away from a line in a clipped, feathered whisper and then confidently attacks it in a drawling, embellished cry. Her debut also shows her remarkably mature appreciation of arrangement. Doug Wieselman’s clarinet, for example, is used sparingly but to great effect and offers complementary and tasteful embroidery to ‘Don’t Say’. But Cohen’s open homage to producer Doveman, covering his own track ‘Boy + Angel’, perhaps betrays the guiding influence with which the record’s more experienced co-contributors have supplemented her own maturity.
Setting aside comparisons with other female singers, and ignoring the hype surround her friends in high places, Cohen’s Child Bride offers a warm and sophisticated debut. It is hard to say that the album breaks new ground but it is subtle, enjoyable and, with its occasional instrumental flourishes and moments of dissonant tension, pleasantly surprising.
Review by Matthew Ellis
Child Bride is released on Bella Union (16 April 2012)