Lisa Hannigan's little tiff with Damien Rice worked out rather well for one of the parties concerned. Two years on from her departure as backing singer and sometime instrumentalist for Mr Popularity 2004, Ms Hannigan is revelling in award nominations and international acclaim. As for Mr Rice, well his underperforming second album and three-year disappearance from the new release shelves are now something of an irrelevance.
Put out through her own label, Hoop, Sea Sew is Hannigan's passion project, hand-crafted in just a fortnight. There's definitely an unashamed quaintness to the album, with self-stitched artwork and old friends drafted in from the Rice days to help out on instrumentation. I Don't Know has a similar coy seductiveness to that other Mercury nominee, the terminally underrated Kathryn Williams, but neither have deserved to be unjustly dubbed the 'token folkie' on the shortlist. There is nothing token about tracks like Keep It All, a sinisterly executed, contemporary tale of infatuation which opens with a rock drum solo definitely not typical of a standard folk offering.
Single Lille is clearly an example of what caused a friend to coin the term 'Plink Plonk Rock' to describe Hannigan's style, sounding like an ambitious Swiss clock with a trouping parade of mechanical figures that meet in the middle at the top of each hour.
As you'd expect from the title, water references abound: Splishy Splashy mimics the rhythm of the tide in its vocals and gentle acoustic guitar, while Ocean And A Rock shares a beautiful motif among strings, brass and keys. Sea Song is the standout track, faintly Latin with pleasingly warm lyrics: ''He's like the wishful thinking in my life/ He's like the wine on the weekend''.
Mercury nominations and the praise of US chat show hosts aside, Lisa Hannigan seems to have an overflowing idea bank with which to go forth and flourish. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Rice. --Keira Burgess
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window
2009 album from Lisa Hannigan.