Meanjin (Brisbane) based vocalist Hannah Macklin enters 2023 with the release of Stars, a glittering piece of cosmic neo soul with its eyes fixed on the night sky and the wonders of the galaxy. Hannah’s commanding voice shares the spotlight with strings and is backed by spacious production featuring mostly acoustic instruments. Sonically, producer Nick Herrera has brought a reassuring chunkiness to this unplugged palette, in particular the head nodding drums. Soulful, jazz-informed vocals are married with triphop and prog influences and the result is reminiscent of Homegenic era Bjork or Portishead as much as contemporary soul artists like Solange.
Stars’ lyrics dwell on tricks of scale – The inconceivable size of those “colossal fiery gems” which are rendered by distance into “teeny tiny glimmers.” The perspective of the story shifts back and forth from second to first person, initially making the listener the protagonist “when you’re in the country, you really see the stars” and then swapping to a firsthand view “the moon is my companion, the planets are my friends.” In addition to songwriting, the keyboards, string arrangements and composition are all Hannah’s own work and Stars is a brilliant introduction to her considerable powers as a multi instrumentalist and all-round musical powerhouse. Stars is Hannah’s first release on Hopestreet Recordings and the first look at a body of work which will comprise an album coming later in 2023.
Hannah describes her writing process: “The melody for Stars came to me first; I heard it inside my head. It felt like a phrase, a statement; hence it opens the piece and is referenced several times post. I was writing on a Yamaha CNR-80 synth organ at the time and the gentle velocity, the whir of the keyboard’s sound lent itself well to conceiving the rest of the song. The rest flowed from there; lyrics and melodies entwined, snaking their way through the piece. I wrote the string parts last; using a demo of the finished song in GarageBand to compose over. Most of the string parts were melodies I first sung and then transcribed.”