The acoustic version

“Knots” comes from Irish singer Lisa Hannigan’s second album Passenger released in 2011 and this intimate acoustic performance of the song as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts really brings to the fore the singer’s warm voice and talent.

As soon as her turn to perform arrived, Hannigan hopped up, barely able to contain a smile, onto the stool behind the Tiny Desk and immediately barreled into the bright ukulele tune “Knots” with virtually no sound check or warm-up. Her voice was astonishing as it bounded from hushed fragility to startling power; if I hadn’t seen her sitting nearby only moments before, I never would have believed that she could sing like that with so little preparation. It was a mesmerizing performance, with Hannigan alternately whispering and howling her way through her songs, her eyes closed and her body rocking to the music.  Clare Flynn – NPR.

During the same session, Lisa Hannigan also sang “Little Bird” and “Passenger” with John Smith on guitar and harmonies.

Lisa Hannigan - Passenger (2011)
Lisa Hannigan – Passenger (2011)

The (colourful) album version

The “official” version of the song is of course the “performance art” video shot in one take by Myles O’Reilly. Lisa Hannigan was spray painted by the members of her own band who each had a water gun filled with a different colour:

We had a huge water gun for Shane and his Bass colour purple, another big gun for Donagh and his horn colour orange, Gav’s piano blue and a silver spray can for the shakers etc.. In the end after the take was done, and there was only one chance, it looked more like a primary school substitute teachers Lynchian nightmare than a beautiful colour kaleidoscope but the many laughs from everyone when playing back the rushes re-assured us it was a success.  Myles O’Reilly

Like all the other songs on the album, “Knots” was recorded live over a week in February 2011 in a Welsh converted farmhouse. And those brilliant string arrangements were added in the Church Studio in London.