06 August 2019 (released)
17 July 2019
One Hand on My Heart has the feel of a throwback album...but why? Are there obviously dated sounds being used? No.. Specific references or language that ties it to an old era? Nope.
Tanya Gallagher's latest EP has no obvious markers tying it to the late 90s and yet it feels like a throwback album. This is likely because not many albums like this have emerged like this since their peak in the late 1990s/early 2000s. There's a mood here that tries to embrace many different feelings simultaneously, a state which in our current climate of polarization, just can't be viably expressed. Artistic output seems to have to be dichotomized into tearful ballads of loss and power anthems. Complex emotions can't be expressed in 15 second Instagram stories. Gallagher writes from the perspective of a stronger self, bolstering herself from a place of confidence but throughout the songs, a worn-out vulnerability seeps through. This ongoing struggle gives the work an honesty that can't be expressed when painting with broad strokes. Furthermore, most work with this kind of mood is usually co-opted by producers to add to the litany of breathy synth-pop acts of which we are now at a breaking point. It's perhaps Gallagher's lingering connection to the world of roots and country that has kept her from the synth-pop factory.
The first and most adhering comparison to come up is Fiona Apple. Gallagher's voice has that same deep, breathy “I can see through you” timbre that Apple does, as well as the rollercoaster cadence of beautifully stringing together long articulate lines while playing all over the scale. There's also the earnestness and ability to hold seemingly mutually exclusive concepts together at the same time. This internal conflict made Apple's work so compelling and for Gallagher, it does the same.
The correlation is apparent right off the bat during the opener 'Dark Side'. The jangly slacker saunter with cautiously optimistic organ is reminiscent of Apple collaborator Jon Brion's style of orchestration. Gallagher expertly tucks a truckload of thoughts into each verse before letting the tension all go with a chorus that sits back on a simple lyric and a signature banjo.
'Barren Land' pulls more toward the country roots, bringing in more influence from her native Pensacola. Gallagher likens the memory of an old flame to a backseat driver, a nagging voice still guiding but needing to be let loose. 'Dolphin in the Snow' joyfully skips through new ground in a fish out of water tale. The bounce has the feel of a mid-90s The Beautiful South. Gallagher wraps the six-song EP with the organ-led slow dance 'Magic' which nicely reminisces on a partner's strengths but in the end, has to give them up cause the endgames don't match. A song that again tries to reconcile love and having to let go without taking the easy road of demonization.
One Hand on My Heart is a refreshingly mature album. Honest, empathetic and devoid of narcissism. Gallagher's strength as the protagonist and as a songwriter comes from her lack of vanity and arrogance. Beyond the comparisons to artists from decades past, the reason the album feels nostalgic is that it harkens back to a time when we as a culture were less petty and self-obsessed.