It’s an enthralling, alliterative name. Say it aloud. Hannah Hunt. It’s easy to pronounce. There’s an affable rhythm, and linguists suggest the repetition of “H” creates romantic introspection.
See, it’s started already.
That autumnal afternoon Hannah was the girl you noticed strolling across the uni lawns, smiling and chatting, smiling and chatting. Not having seen her before, suddenly you looked for her everywhere.
She had an irresistible laugh; a laugh that promised unexpected fun, and every time you heard it you fell further. She wasn’t routinely beautiful, although Hannah was deeply attractive. You’d pinch a peek at her and she’d be unaware; unaffected; completely at ease with herself, and her moment. You loved this too.
But Hannah was maddening. She was dangerously spontaneous and you kept tumbling. You never felt more alive. You always forgave her.
And then, that was it.
How many of us have fallen in love with a Hannah Hunt? I have.
Discovering Vampire Weekend a decade ago, I grew to love their sunny, literate pop. I’d often listen on my phone to their second album, Contra, as I moved beneath Singapore’s concrete towers and jungle heat.
I then enjoyed their third release, Modern Vampires of the City, but it was years before track six, at the record’s heart, stirred something significant in me.
Hannah Hunt opens in a seascape. A gentle, pretty song, it initially glides in that ethereal space between sleeping and waking. There’s a quietness, an almost meditative quality to the music that maybe mirrors our narrator’s quest for peace.
We first meet the couple when their world is bright and astonishing and they share those daily discoveries, as all new lovers do.
A gardener told me some plants move
But I could not believe it
Till me and Hannah Hunt
Saw crawling vines and weeping willows
Lead singer Ezra Koenig’s voice is hopeful yet haunted, and harmonises with Rostam Batmanglij’s murmur in a pristine fragility. It’s almost acapella, so sparse is the instrumentation.
The narrator and Hannah are on their road trip and such is the cinematic scope the song feels like a four-minute film. They travel from Providence to Phoenix (in America two especially symbolic names) and Waverley to Lincoln before their westward wanderings end, as they must, among scenes of desperation, on the bitter Californian coast.
In Santa Barbara, Hannah cried
I miss those freezing beaches
And I walked into town
To buy some kindling for the fire
Hannah tore the New York Times up into pieces
Like the best stories there’s an atom of doubt in how it concludes. Seemingly a break-up song, but in Dylanesque style we remain unsure.
If I can’t trust you then damn it Hannah
There’s no future, there’s no answer
Though we live on the US dollar
You and me, we got our own sense of time
But he’ll forever remain in her orbit, no matter how wide the galaxy.
Following the second verse there’s a gorgeous explosion when the drums, bass and that detuned piano burst into aching life. This is among my favourite ever melodic instants. With Gatsby-like uproar, and swelling anguish, it’s a flowering. Like Hannah, the piano sounds broken yet still attractive, while the drums are as insistent as the pounding heart of her protagonist.
Finally, we have Rostam Batmanglij’s guitar solo. It’s the perfect coda. Played with a soaring slide effect it provides the listener with release, wailing and crying like the human hurt that inspired it.
I love the joy and transportive passion. It’s aural splendor.
I’m going to listen to it now.
One thought on “Vampire Weekend’s Hannah Hunt”
Love that song. My favourite bit is where the detuned piano and the whole band kicks in.
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