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Hannah in the Wars: Self-Titled Album

Hannah in the Wars, Hannah in the Wars review, Hannah in the Wars self-titled albumHannah in the Wars — Hannah in the Wars

Release Date:  May 25
Our Rating: 3/5
Spec Recs: “Rear View Mirror Baby,” “Sweet Release,” “Dark Summer Dawn”
In one word: Musing

A musician must be doing something right to recruit Roger O’Donnell to produce his or her debut album. This is exactly what singer-songwriter Hannah Curwood did for her self-titled release Hannah in the Wars. The album was refined with help from the well-known Cure keyboardist and released on his label, 99X/10. On working with Curwood, O’Donnell had nothing but positive things to say: “The amazing performances and arrangements somehow pull you in and take you somewhere else. Somewhere Hannah has been but you haven’t, she shares her secrets and tells her stories…Its been a pleasure and a privilege to work with her.”

Curwood hails from New Zealand but is currently based in London. This is where she started her newest musical endeavor, a band called Hannah in the Wars. She recored the band’s debut at the home studio of O’Donnell and was guided by his knowledge in synth programming, vocals and musical arrangements. The finished product is a sharp 10-song release that highlights Curwood’s strong vocals and songwriting skills. It’s worth mentioning that music making is nothing new for Curwood. She is a well-known and celebrated folk musician in her native country and has released solo albums Sky Above Horse Below and The Blind Love EP, both to acclaim.

The self-titled album plays well on the first listen but is a collection that sits better after several spins. It is hard to fully appreciate or understand one time through, for better or worse. I was initially drawn to the band because of itsname. After hearing the album through, I understand why releasing this as a self-titled LP was a best fit. Lyrically, the songs are about the wars in life. The ups and downs. The losses and gains. The battles we face alone and together. Echoey vocals, percussion as rich as the orchestra, pretty piano arrangements, and atmospheric synth add a brooding element to the release. In some songs the instrumentation is chilling, almost haunting (listen to my recommended track “Rear View Mirror Baby”). In others, the music is welcoming — a lush soundscape that you want to roll around in (listen to my other recommendation, “Dark Summer Dawn.”).

On the album’s theme, Curwood says in a press release: ”This album was written amidst a complex tapestry of events.  A profound existential, spiritual and psychological crisis of a family member, terrifying, brutal and bewildering in intensity was accompanied by the agonising death knells and eventual shattering of a romantic relationship that had spanned many years, the deconstruction of a home. […] But this is how we work, in infinite ways, against infinite backgrounds we function.  We grieve, we process, we grow and we continue on in our inexorable march, sometimes dragged kicking and screaming, sometimes passive travellers dreamily coasting with the current.”

It’s a good debut, but I felt a lull between track six (“Only Wanna Be”) and track eight (“Infidel”). The repetition of lyrics and layered vocals started to disinterest me during this time. Funny to say because track nine, “Lay Your Hands,” is the epitome of those two things and yet came across so well. Not only does it showcase Curwood’s ability to hit high notes and maintain her voice comfortably in those upper octaves, it also felt the most emotive. It is the shortest track on the album (only 2:22) and features only two lines. Still, in its brevity, it is vivid. The album ends (with “Dark Summer Dawn”) as it started with “Burning Through the Night” — spirited.

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