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Album of the Week: 'Big Swimmer' by King Hannah

A photo of a woman in water. Her hands are covering her face and only her shoulders upward are out of the water. It is foamy and looks like the ocean.
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King Hannah
King Hannah's second album Big Swimmer released on May 31, 2024.

'Big Swimmer' by King Hannah is KAXE's Album of the Week for June 10-16, 2024.

Hannah Merrick uses a swimming metaphor to declare her willingness to try new things and not back down from challenges in the first bars of King Hannah's latest album Big Swimmer.

It is modern folk music heavily inspired by the folk ballads of the '60s and '70s, but it is not the sound you hear for most of Big Swimmer, the second album from the Liverpudlian duo of vocalist Merrick and guitar player Craig Whittle.

Whittle's grungy guitar joins in after several beats pause and the group's sound and strength become clear. Merrick's voice and lyrics float around and over Whittle's guitar leading to many special moments throughout the album.

Merrick's lyrics are often delivered in a stream-of-consciousness style, and her vocals are equally arresting in deadpan monologues or soaring folk melodies.

Whittle is a versatile guitarist inspired by the guitar work of 90's alt-rock bands like Built To Spill and Slint, along with the fuzzed out guitar of Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

The duo pick up the pace on "New York, Let's Do Nothing," where Merrick recounts a story of a job interview where the prospective employer was less than thrilled that she was a musician. Both of the member's skills are on full display with the singer switching between flat verses and a beautifully melodic chorus, and Whittle letting loose a dissonant guitar solo.

"The Mattress" sounds like Beth Gibbons fronting Neil Young and Crazy Horse playing Portishead songs. Some of the highest highs occur when Whittle's guitar falls away and Merrick's voice fills the void left behind, expanding after the crescendo of the chorus.

The album returns to folk music with the closing track "John Prine on the Radio." It's a gently strummed ballad that any lover of music will resonate with.

Despite whatever worries and problems might be plaguing you, despite the mundaneness of everyday life — sometimes listening to an artist you love can make everything feel alright.

Must Listens:

  • "Big Swimmer"
  • "New York, Let's Do Nothing"
  • "The Mattress"
  • "Suddenly, Your Hand"
  • "Davey Says"
  • "John Prine on the Radio"
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Malachy started his radio career at a college radio station, where he played weird music in the middle of the night to possibly no one. On a good night maybe his parents were listening. Nonetheless, he was hooked on public radio and is still doing it today. He joined Northern Community Radio in 2022, where he gets to share his passion for local music as Producer of Centerstage Minnesota, an all Minnesota music show airing Fridays at 2pm.