by Geno Thackara
Some people go dancing or shopping when they want to make themselves feel better; others get therapy from hiking, good Thai food or wacky improv comedy. When Hannah Cohen hit a rough patch several years back, her treatment was to borrow a guitar and start teaching herself to play. The product is a breathtakingly personal songwriting voice that’s straight from the heart and distinctly offbeat at the same time, the intuitive approach bringing results a more ‘properly’ trained musician probably wouldn’t have come up with.
Her second album, Pleasure Boy, releases today. It came out of dealing with a painful breakup, and it shows. She says, “I wanted the music to hurt” – an interesting way to get people wanting to hear it, but it’s the kind of hurt that gets lighter after it’s shared. It’s music that works best at dark lonely times and yet hopefully brings you out the other side of the tunnel feeling less alone in the end. The new recording has just a couple more layers of instruments and programmed beats than her first, all still light enough to make it feel spacious and quiet.
“I definitely have moved on and the songs have taken a new meaning for me,” Cohen says now that the painful writing and recording are actually behind her. “A few of them are still a bit devastating at times… but it’s all good!”
The audience should at least be prepared to feel something, whether it’s to feel better or worse (or possibly worse and then better). At the moment the audiences she’s traveling to meet are all in Europe, but there’s a promise of more dates on the way through the spring.
Of course a busy band wouldn’t be right for music so intimate, so the show is a simpler affair that gives the songs the space they need. “I’ve got a drummer, Cinque Kemp, and a programmer/keyboardist, Philip K. I’m triggering effects myself as well. Trying to recreate the sound from the record live has proven challenging, but I think we can pull it off!” she says hopefully.
The see-what-happens attitude is in keeping with the almost-accidental nature of her career itself, which has gone from modeling to photography and now to music as different opportunities present themselves. It’s been a wildly eclectic path already, and nobody knows what unexpected turns still lie ahead. “At the moment I am pretty content with just working on music, but I’m always open to trying something new,” she sums it up simply.
We’ll all have to wait and see just what that means. For now, there are two albums of these heartfelt songs to give the rest of us a little therapy of our own.