First Watch: Lisa Hannigan Adrift In 'Undertow'

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Lisa Hannigan

It took five years for Lisa Hannigan to make At Swim, but with the collaborative help of Aaron Dessner of The National the Irish singer's third album turned out to be a brilliant little gem. In our interview Lisa Hannigan described the lyrical imagery on this album as being adrift, of existing in the world without a steering wheel, of being controlled by outside forces.

Watching her new video for "Undertow," these images are made crystalline; we see the singer underwater, that sense of falling and floating captured beautifully.

I want to sink down like a stone.
You never lost me you never broke.
I want to be adrift on your radio.
On take me under, take me home.

There's a bit of magic in this video. It feels as if time is moving backward — in part because of the slow motion, but something else felt reversed, too. (Spoiler alert for those who don't want this video's magic revealed — stop here.) I was curious about the effect, so Lisa Hannigan responded in an email that in order to capture the "watery drift of the words" and to communicate that sense of floating, "we felt the best way was for me to learn the song backwards, so that all around me would move upwards, not down. It took a while for the reverse words and melody to sink in — but now I tend to sing the backwards version when on my own."

Lisa Hannigan's third album At Swim came out this past summer, and she will begin a U.S. tour in February. You can hear my interview with Lisa Hannigan, exploring how she overcame her writers block to make At Swim, here.

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