album review: hannah georgas – for evelyn;

This review originally appeared on The Arts Desk.

How does Hannah Georgas’s 98-year-old grandmother feel about her collaborations with Graham Walsh, her two-time producer better known as part of Canadian electronic quartet Holy Fuck? It is, one suspects, one of a few aspects of this rich, immersive record that the Evelyn of its title might raise an eyebrow at – but in its themes of family, longing, loyalty and resilience, particularly on the gorgeous not-quite-title track, there’s plenty for her to be proud of.

It was obvious from their work together on her 2013 self-titled album that Walsh had a knack for drawing out the unexpected from Georgas’s wispy vocals and dreamlike observations – and if you’re not prepared to take my word for it, just ask the Polaris Prize panel, who longlisted that album for Canada’s equivalent of the Mercury. On For Evelyn that partnership is honed still further, to meld unexpected beats and flurries of exciting instrumentation with vocal lines that get under your skin. Georgas sounds at once immediate and a million miles away, with the blistering “Waste” and desperate melancholy of “Don’t Go” having all the immediacy of diary entries despite the dreamy vocals.

Georgas still finds time to get a little playful: “Crazy Shit”, underpinned by Walsh’s bouncy synth line, and the summery “Naked Beaches” are filled with the kind of antics that would make her grandmother blush. But she is strongest as a songwriter when she prods at her emotional wounds. “Waste” plumbs the depths, lyrically, of the heartbreak that obliquely fuels much of the album – but, thumbing its nose at convention, does so accompanied by squalling, syncopated horns and one of the most irresistible melody lines you’ll ever hear. “Walls” begins its life as a stripped-back, piano-driven number which shimmers and builds so subtly that it’s three minutes in before you’ll realise you are completely immersed, and “Evelyn” provides the album’s reckoning: “One day I’m going to feel like I’m not afraid anymore”.

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