Hannah Werdmuller is a singer-songwriter formerly based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and now living in the Bay Area of California. She is also an ecologist and visual artist, and a friend of mine, so I guess I can't guarantee total objectivity here. She generally sings solo with a guitar, or sometimes a ukulele, and occasionally a harmonica. Since her songs are usually acoustic and they don't obviously belong in any other genre, we might as well call them folk music.

Pre-Apocalyptic Love Song is her first full-length album, and it is one of my favourite albums by anyone. 'Recorded in bedrooms, gardens and beaches' as she puts it, she recorded and produced it herself, as well as making all the music and the artwork for the album. Some of the tracks have birds singing in the background if you listen carefully. It came out in November 2010, two years ago last week. I still listen to it often.

Her songs are witty, thoughtful and emotionally charged - sometimes in unexpected ways, as with the two devastatingly downbeat sort-of-love-songs here, 'Caroline' and 'Daybreak'. She evidently takes great pleasure in playing with people's expectations, be they musical, lyrical or thematic.

  1. Canny Man is an appropriately brutal reversal of the man-kills-woman-then-feels-kinda-bad murder ballad tradition.
    He pinned me to the wall. I stabbed him with my knife.
  2. Life Is Good is a delightful little number about how terrible life can be, and how it usually works out to be okay after all.
    Figured out my problem was a distinct deficit of love, so I looked in all the wrong places.
  3. Ballad of the Barefoot Bandit I. (Island Boy) is a song about the deprived childhood of Colton Harris-Moore, who would later teach himself how to fly and steal a number of aeroplanes, among other things.
    Fast as he can, he's going anywhere but here. Anywhere but here. He's nothing to lose, so why not run?
  4. An Excellent Growbag is all about how nice it is that we get to turn into high-grade compost after we die.
    So put me in the ground, let me show you what I got - plant pansies in my panties and forget-me-not.
  5. Pre-Apocalyptic Love Song is a song about the apocalypse not having arrived yet.
    I showed you my heart, you showed me your homemade snare trap. It was then I knew you were the girl for me.
  6. Diurnal Migration is a catchy song in 3/4 time, about a phenomenon of marine biology that I have written about elsewhere. It appeared in the E2 Podcast Season 6, Episode 2, the science special.
    Much of the ocean is not yet explored, though submarines pootle about the sea floor...
  7. Caroline may be the single most heart-wrenching song about love that I have ever heard.
    And he sits, and he waits for the fire to flee from his face - and her lips: stone set, but the smile in her eyes defies her.
  8. Open Road is a whistling-along sort of a song, about the travelling life and the pleasures of being unburdened.
    Follow the clouds across the sky. See them changing by and by. It's time for moving on.
  9. Jane is the story of a woman who dreams of a life at sea, and the expectations that get in the way of realising that dream.
    But by lamplight she settled in for the night, reading of adventure, danger and discovery - and the waves called to her.
  10. Daybreak is a quiet, slow-rolling song about love and the way times change.
    Oh, what a spark to jump-start my heart.

The whole album is available to stream freely or to buy and download from BandCamp via http://hannahwerdmuller.com/ - her more recent work (as well as older stuff) is on SoundCloud at http://soundcloud.com/hannahwerdmuller, and you can also find her on facebook.

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