Lisa Hannigan has announced details of highly-anticipated new album, ‘At Swim’, which will be released on August 19th via Play It Again Sam recordings. Produced by The National‘s Aaron Dessner, her third – and arguably most bewitching – record follows the double-platinum, Mercury-nominated debut ‘Sea Sew’, and 2011’s ‘Passenger’ (which charted at number 1 in Ireland, and earned Lisa another Choice Music Prize nomination). An intimate 16-date Irish tour commences this month, with an extensive worldwide run of shows and the album’s first single to follow shortly.
Airing today, new track ‘Prayer for the Dying’ (watch below) was inspired by the passing of a friend’s parent after an extended illness. ‘They’d had a very long and happy marriage and the loss was devastating,’ Lisa recalls. ‘I wanted to try and express that grief but also pay tribute to their marriage.’ Building from its Patsy Cline-esque lament to a starlit, shimmering chorus (‘Your heart, my heart’), ‘Prayer for the Dying’ is perhaps the darkest and most vulnerable recording of Hannigan’s career – which began of course with her seminal, shadowy turn on Damien Rice’s ‘O’, ‘9’, and has since seen her strengthen her own unique artistic voice.
After playing in support of ‘Passenger’ for nearly two years, Lisa Hannigan struggled at first to write new material for ‘At Swim’. A new relationship meant that she was dividing her time between Dublin and London: adrift and lost, she threw herself into distraction instead. There was an acting debut as a mermaid in the Oscar-nominated animation ‘Song of the Sea’, soundtrack work on ‘Fargo’ and the Oscar-winning score for ‘Gravity’, all the while founding and co-hosting the acclaimed ‘Soundings’ podcast (which saw Lisa turn interviewer, and speak to guests such as Harry Shearer, Sharon Horgan and David Arnold).
The breakthrough came when Hannigan got an email out of the blue from Aaron Dessner, guitarist with The National and producer for the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Local Natives. Taking up Dessner’s suggestion to work together and rediscovering the collaborative spirit she’d missed in Dublin enabled Lisa to see her time in London in a different light. So while ‘At Swim’ is in part about homesickness and isolation, it’s also – profoundly and very movingly – about love.
Having first exchanged ideas over email and iPhones, ‘At Swim’ surfaced when Lisa and Aaron finally met up in Denmark: recording then took place in a church in Hudson, New York, during a furiously-creative seven-day stint. Despite openly being written lost-at-sea, you sense that at this point in her career, Lisa Hannigan is now a strong enough swimmer to go as far out as she wants; to darker depths than before, where the treasure lies, and bring it back to us.
At Swim is released worldwide on August 19
Lisa is touring Ireland now, head over to her website for tour dates:
Photo Credit: Rich Gilligan