Even before Lisa Hannigan's departure from the Damien Rice camp, people were baying for a solo album. The girl who sat in the corner of the stage, quietly embellishing the music of a singer who became more imperious with every gig was obviously quite special; her aptitude for drawing out the nuances of Rice's songs with the subtlest of inflections, an instinctual talent.
Sea Sew, her long-awaited solo debut, is equally as natural and simplistic as her previous material, with one obvious difference: it's very much her own album. Free of the drab acoustic shackles of someone else's songs, Hannigan flourishes in these folky numbers, that veer from sparse, jaunty dream-pop (Venn Diagram, Splishy Splashy) and lilting, upbeat fare that's as dinky as it is groovy (Pistachio, Keep It All). However, it's Hannigan's pure, half-whispered voice that's always been her trump card, and here, it creates both a sense of disquiet and elation - best heard as she catches the wave of overbearing, skewed jazz-style strings of Courting Blues and rides it adeptly, or on the glowing closer Lille.
As good an album as Sea Sew is, though, there's still a feeling that some special ingredient is missing. Perhaps it'll take a few more years of experience as a soloist for Hannigan to truly sound comfortable and confident in her own skin, but as debuts go, a certain degree of reticence is certainly not unforgiveable. We look to the future with anticipation. Gorgeous artwork, too.