Music Review: Arlo Hannigan, House And Home

Published on December 4th, 2015 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Melissa Bratcher

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If I were the sort of pithy writer who could sum up an album (or EP, as this is) in one word, I would say Arlo Hannigan’s new EP House And Home is intimate. I would, of course, be remiss in not adding, House And Home  is gorgeous, rich, and immersive. There’s a feeling of space, both the wide open kind and the heavenly kind.

Hannigan’s music is quite hard to pigeonhole (which is always a good thing). There’s an English folky vibe to the hypnotic “Born Into Wind.” It feels very modern Nick Drake-ish, with a rich tone to Hannigan’s finely played acoustic guitar. His voice is utterly appealing, with a warm lower register and a keen purity to his chest voice. “Observation” has a darker edge, like shadows creeping across a desert, replete with snake charmer flute and a guitar that sounds like the rattle of a dead man’s bones. It’s cinematic-feeling without being anthemic, more a David Lynch film than a Michael Bay. It’s quietly sinister, right down to the spaghetti western guitar that occasionally bubbles to the surface.

Arlo Hannigan’s guitar playing is impressive. He’s got a delicious subtlety, bringing an edgier tone to the EP closer, “Shade.” “Shade” is sonically bolder than most of the other tracks on House And Home, with clever rhythmic turns and a more open (read: less crooning) vocal performance. The song has a big feeling, but still is intimate. Though not as much so as “Little Black Box.” Hushed and secretive, Hannigan’s voice is little more than a whisper. The acoustic guitar is played sharply, but elementally, and the percussion is unusual and subtle, like a drumstick being played on a concrete floor.

On “Pioneer,” the guitar is a perpetual-motion machine. It’s a dreamy track, with “Don’t look back / don’t look back for nothing” repeated in mesmerizing fashion. There’s a sense of vastness, but also the intimacy: “You’re my unsettled country / and I’m your pioneer / just drive, don’t look back for nothing /you’re so far, when I’m here.” It’s beautiful and breathless with slight instrumentation. “Harness The Sun,” too, is painfully exquisite. There’s an understated flute tone underneath the music, and woodwinds lurk around the edges. It’s pastoral, yet bold and lush.

I find myself going back to House And Home frequently. The song craft and Hannigan’s use of interesting instrumentation make it addictive. There’s a sensuous warmth and depth to Arlo Hannigan’s work that is stunning to hear. He’s definitely one to watch… and listen to.

House And Home was released on November 13.

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