Hannah Lou Clark’s rich voice, compelling lyrics and unique guitar sound, combined with powerful instrumental backing, add up to a cracking slice of vinyl. ‘The Heart And All Its Sin’ is as satisfying as many LPs, even though it’s barely half the length of an album at under 17 minutes — its five tracks far more meaty than most EPs. 

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Like a Hannah Lou Clark gig, ‘The Heart And All Its Sin’ EP opens with the spellbinding ‘Matilda’. A beautifully detuned guitar accompanies haunting lyrics — “Give me strength, hold me up, give me strength, help me out…” breaking into a faster, melodic chorus of “I’ll be your lover, I’ll be your friend, I’ll be your mother, be there at the end”. As the song develops, taking unexpected twists and turns, it leads to an almost psychedelic section in which the repeated phrase “in deep water” seems to be commenting on the loaded waves of sound that this performer generates. “Will we be lovers, will we be friends?” echoes the earlier lyrics as the mood darkens, “Will we keep singing till there’s nothing left… give me strength, I’m in the water, I’m in the water”.

‘Don’t Sweat It’ starts with a restrained reverb guitar and vintage drum machine, breaking into a fuller sound as lead guitar comes in and she sings “champagne takes the edge off me…. I take the edge off you”. Drums are used sparingly, the words ring with honesty and the track races along to a ’60s tinged grunge-folk climax. ‘We’re Rich’ is a gentle song with a poetically lyrical chorus and densely plucked acoustic guitar accompaniment, while keyboards take on the role of orchestral strings. Hannah Lou Clark’s voice is full of emotion as she sings “I’m rich when you’re with me, when you hold me I turn to gold”. The music fades to guitar as she muses, “together we are gold”. The lyrics use hard cash similes to explore themes of romantic love.

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‘Grief Underneath’ starts as a powerful, edgy singer-songwriter track — again with the trademark reverb, detuned guitar. “The voice in my head, the voice of the dead… get drunk to get sad, a beautiful mess,Hannah Lou Clark sings with an edge to her voice. As the song climaxes, a drum roll moves it into indie territory, away from that singer-songwriter vibe, to the gothic lyric: “The sky remains blue but my blood runs black”. The last track, ‘Torment Love’, pairs a delicate vocal, full off bathos, with a complex clickety/clockwork-sounding percussive undercurrent and adds plangent country-style guitars. Words tumble from Hannah Lou Clark until she concludes: “I’m sorry love, I torment you, can’t help myself, I blame myself.” Each song on ‘The Heart And All Its Sin’ is unmistakably Hannah Lou Clark, and yet she refuses to stand still, always trying out new directions as a songwwiter, performer and arranger. 

‘The Heart And All Its Sin’ is released on 24th March 2017 via Quatre Femmes.

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