Hannah & Maggie – Muscle and Bone
2012, Hannah & Maggie
2012, Hannah & Maggie
If you were to picture Hannah & Maggie as a sort of musical Thelma and Louise, barnstorming across the U.S. in an over-stuffed station wagon, you wouldn’t be too far from part of the truth. The truth, that is, if Thelma and Louise harmonized liked Simon and Garfunkel, and wrote with the poignant flair of The Indigo Girls. These words are, perhaps, big shoes to fill, but Hannah & Maggie fill them nicely. Their recently released second album, Muscle And Bone, offers wonderfully image-filled songwriting, angelic harmonies and musical warmth that is difficult to describe but wonderful to experience.
Hannah &Maggie kick things off with “As You Wake”, a wonderfully vibrant still life in song about love worn angst. In spite of the emotional cloudy skies portrayed here the song is catchy, and Hannah & Maggie's voices mix like magic. “Keeping Calm The Lives We Know” is urgent and faced-paced, and sounds very much like a theoretical Paula Simon and Amy Garfunkel. Musical aesthetics seems to be the purpose in “Burlington, Vermont”. The attention to capture a place/moment is a bid muddled lyrically, but is a thing of pure beauty musically. “Muscle and Bone” captures the musician yearning; the desire to capture moments, people and places in song for the sake of doing so. The sense of transcendence here is amazing. It’s like hearing the magic of nature unfurl before your very ears.
“City In Between” is a catchy folk number about coming to terms with the terminal dysfunction in a relationship. This time the lyrical constructs are spot on, and the performance is as sharp as anything Hannah & Maggie have done. Fans of Nerissa and Katryna Nields will find much to like here. One of the most interesting songs on the album is “Ghost”, an ode to an emotional transient that is crafted in warm musical hues and stark imagery. Hannah & Maggie create a sort of musical alchemy with their voices here in perhaps the most moving performance on the album.
Hannah & Maggie do a wonderful job of capturing a feeling of melancholy and emotional desolation on “Little Wind”. The musical imagery matches the lyrics, and makes for a listen that’s aesthetically uncomfortably but artistically masterful. The melancholy bleeds over into “Curfew”, breakout out into full hysterics that we never quite see but have described for us. The song is a thing of utter beauty, a ‘Wow’ moment, with Hannah Hickock showing a tremendous sense of vulnerability and awareness in the process of coming to terms with things she knew about a relationship but didn’t recognize at the time.
“Brighton Beach” is a surprisingly literate take on someone circling their own psyche for understanding. The lyrics here roll off the tongue like pure magic, with turns of phrase that make you stop in wonder. The voices here are sublime. “The Room Fiddler” is an interesting blend of melancholy and hope that is quietly catchy. The sadness in this song is palpable, but there is also a sense that the singer is searching for redemption in loneliness, and intriguing conceptualization. “The Quieting Down” maintains the desolate quality that pops up throughout Muscle and Bone, ensconced in a wonderful cadence. Hannah & Maggie wind things down with “Four Post Bed”, a somewhat confusing take on the baser tendencies of human relationships. It’s not entirely clear whether the singer is indicting someone else or herself for perceived imperfections. Nevertheless, it’s a sonically beautiful closer you won’t want to miss.
Hannah & Maggie grab you right from the opening moments of Muscle and Bone with stark imagery, gorgeous arrangements and voices that wrap around you like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. Comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel, The Indigo Girls and The Nields are all very valid, but the overarching quality that runs through Muscle and Bone is an aching desolation like that which informed Roger Waters’ best work with Pink Floyd. This desolation elocuted in such angelic voices sparks images that drive themselves into your mind and refuse to leave. Muscle and Bone may have a couple of weak moments, but the magic that pervades here is too strong to ignore.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Hannah & Maggie at www.hannahandmaggie.com.