PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Hannah Cohen
I must confess that I am...
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Hannah Cohen
relatively new to the music of Hannah Cohen. I am aware of her since her 2012 debut album, Child Bride. Listening back to the record now and it shows so much promise but, as an artist, Cohen would grow in ability and confidence. It is an interesting album that boasts many gorgeous songs. Perhaps it is not as strong as the material on her current album, Welcome Home, but it was clear in 2012 that Cohen was a name to watch closely. The Line of Best Fit investigated Child Bride for a feature in 2012:
“As debut albums go, Hannah Cohen’s is a beautiful introduction. Child Bride is urban folk at its finest – Cohen’s deeply evocative vocal infuses empirically elegant melodies, allowing her emotional world to tumble out over its ten songs.
And Hannah Cohen has some heritage. The granddaughter of British poet Bertie Rodgers (who was BFF with Dylan Thomas), and the daughter of a British mother and an American jazz-drumming father, Cohen’s childhood was illuminated by touring musicians and her parents’ hippy ideology. After high-school, she became a fashion model, before defecting to the other side of the lens (she recently released her first book of photography entitled Fotografias Brasil).
Cohen’s music career is still in its relative infancy, but what she lacks in experience she can make up in with friends. Child Bride was produced by Thomas Bartlett (of Doveman fame), while the album includes contributions from Sam Amidon, Rob Moose and Mauro Refosco who have worked with acts ranging from Bon Iver to Thom Yorke. As you would expect, Child Bride is deliciously executed”.
“So, when did you begin to make music?
About four years ago, I was on vacation with my then boyfriend – who was a musician – and he left the room and I went to pick up his guitar. I’ve always had a lot of musician friends and have travelled around to watch their music. I just started playing and from there I got my own little guitar. I’d play all day and then started singing out melodies and began writing from there. I feel like I have a good ear and that helps me.
How did you get from there to the point of having songs which could potentially become an album?
I started sharing my songs with friends and they were all saying ‘wow, they’re good, keep going’. I met Thomas Bartlett about two-and-a-half years ago and I sang him ‘Don’t Say’ and he was like ‘Oh my god, I totally want to produce a record for you and I now exactly what I would want to do’. So, I wrote about 25 songs and got rid of a few really bad ones. But, this first record has a lot to do with Thomas because he really saw something in my songs”.
I will talk more about Cohen’s latest album but, even at the start of her career, there was plenty of originality and intrigue. I have just heard (1st September) her give an interview to Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio 6 Music. Throughout the interview, she was engaging, warm and fascinating. In a sea of artists, Cohen definitely stands out.
There is an unmistakable beauty and sense of belonging on Welcome Home. When speaking about her album with Radcliffe and Maconie, Cohen revealed that she felt like this is her first proper album. Maybe Child Bride and Pleasure Boy (2015) were not as complete and fulfilling as she hoped; maybe it has taken her a while to get to where she needs to be but, in terms of quality and memorability, I feel her third album is her best. It seems like the California-born artist is where she needs to be:
“Hannah Cohen has arrived home. From the title of her new album to the depth and beauty of the music, the Woodstock, NY-based singer-songwriter’s third album, Welcome Home, displays a new level of confidence and comfort with the many creative tools at her disposal. Cohen’s remarkably evocative voice is surrounded by dreamy, swooning incantations, from the rippling ‘This Is Your Life’ and the slow-burning, forthright statement of ‘All I Want,’ to the soul swagger of ‘Get in Line’ and dramatic vocal leaps of ‘Wasting My Time.’
With Welcome Home, “I don’t feel I have to cover up anything, or not be able to share,”Cohen says. “There’s less to interpret, I’m more visible. And as to reflecting on the past when things didn’t go well, I’ve left that behind. It was all worth it, to make my way to this point.”
Produced by Cohen’s partner Sam Owens, the producer/writer who performs as Sam Evian, the artist began developing the material that became Welcome Home in 2017. Taking her time with the songs, she wrapped herself in the fulfilling quiet of a new home, and a new creative partnership that supported finding a clarity in her writing and vocals. Many of the songs were written on an old, nylon-string guitar painted with Hawaiian scenes of beaches and palm trees (which can be heard on ‘This Is Your Life’), that, no matter the final arrangement, gives the songs a lighter touch, a warming glow that suffuses the whole album. Listeners may find echoes of folk and R&B, radiating with vocal-powered pop production, electronic accents, and bursts of pulsing guitar/bass/drums energy. Irresistible echoes of soul enchanters such as Carrie Cleveland (an early touchstone for Cohen and Evian), Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and their friend and sometime collaborator Nick Hakim blend with the reflective shadings of singer/writer forebears such as Carole King and Harry Nilsson”.
I will bring in a couple more articles before rounding things off but it seems like a lot of love is going the way of Cohen. She has played in London and Birkenhead the past couple of days and is heading to Brighton later today. I am not sure whether there are more dates in the U.K. but, when she does pop back here, make sure you go and see her play.
Hannah Cohen is a very open, relatable and accessible artist who, when interviewed, sounds incredibly charming, friendly and warm. I am not saying other artists are not but you instantly bond with Cohen the moment you hear her talk. In a busy year for music, perhaps Welcome Home will not challenge the biggest releases – from the likes of Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey – but it is an album that promises sunshine and contentment. Loud and Quiet, in this feature, drill to the heart of Welcome Home:
“It then feels natural that her third album – the aptly titled Welcome Home – captures the uplifting experience of finally finding a new haven, and the 10 tracks here radiate a sense of freedom and ease that comes with feeling at home somewhere. Things start off with the blissful ‘This Is Your Life’, with its melody gently dancing like a mirage, lyrically showing where Cohen’s mental state is at, and her desire to stop the mundanity of life disrupting her happiness. Elsewhere, the bittersweet ‘Old Bruiser’ and ‘Build Me Up’ offer a nostalgic quality, and are some of the strongest moments on the album.
There’s a fluidity and lightness in Cohen’s songs, as her acoustic guitar and angelic, floaty voice are quilted in an oceanic dream-pop aesthetic, bringing to mind acts such as Kacey Johansing and Japanese Breakfast. Those searching for something more immediate might be left unsatisfied (it does all get a bit airy and overly delicate at times), but overall it captures a positive new transition, like waking up on a sunny Saturday morning”.
Cohen has toured internationally in the past but it seems, after Welcome Home gains more traction, she will get a lot more dates. It is great she has played in the U.K. and it seems like there is a very warm and welcoming bond. Here, in this Pop Matters feature, they explore the notion that, whilst Cohen seems to be referring to others in her songs, her music is much more personal – she is referring to herself:
“Despite using non-identifying pronouns such as "you", it's obvious Cohen is speaking to herself in the third person: "And I'll tell you what it is / The moment you see it, you want it, take the risk / You're out of your mind and that's alright". Here Cohen taps onto the psychological effect of "I" versus "you" statements. Using "you" instead of "I" when uttering self-affirmations has proven to yield greater results for the individual. Without question, Cohen opens her album with the literal and figurative declaration of change and agency.
In Welcome Home's press release, Cohen explained "a lot of the album is about checking in with reality and taking the wheel, being honest with myself and my intentions. Being transparent as much as possible. They're about exploring why I'm here." With that sentiment in mind, "Holding On" takes an unadulterated approach to understanding herself while "What's This All About" addresses the impact of her location on her self-worth. She's critical of the City's role in her creative process as she ponders "What about this city do you still love? / 'Cause it's making me crazy / I can't get a new job / Gotta make it work / Or we can move to the country".
Welcome Home is a portrait of an artist amidst transition. As Cohen grapples with physical location, she creates a musical space where an exploration of identity is conducted with intimacy and vulnerability”.
Cohen’s first two albums are well worth seeking out but I do feel like Welcome Home is a new beginning. With just ten albums and no song exceeding five minutes, she is pretty skilled when it comes to creating economical and tight music. That is not to say Welcome Home lacks exploration, depth and ambitious: songs like All I Wanted and Return Room are compelling, immersive and engrossing. Welcome Home is one of these albums that beckon you in but keep you coming back – not like so many modern albums which lack depth and nuance. It seems like the future is very much open and up for grabs. With each album, Cohen takes another step: Welcome Home is her greatest work and, in my view, one of the strongest albums of the year. She is still in the U.K. and will return to the U.S. shortly. I shall leave things here but I would prompt people to follow Hannah Cohen and go and grab a copy of Welcome Home. It is a wonderful record that everyone should listen to. Maybe the past few years have been about personal exploration and discovery; her first two albums have been stepping stones, perhaps. It is clear that, on her third album, Hannah Cohen has definitely…
FOUND her home.
Follow Hannah Cohen
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Hannah Cohen