Album Review: ‘Maniac’ by Hannah Richardson

Jeremiah Janzen

The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated local art and music scenes across the country. Facing a lack of cohesion and clarity on a day-to-day basis, one can certainly empathize with the struggling artist.

While a lack of in-person events may provide a challenge to some, other artists are working from home and embracing the challenge of creating during a pandemic. On her upcoming album, “Maniac,” University of Colorado Boulder student Hannah Richardson puts forth a powerfully cohesive and tightly woven musical effort.


“Maniac” provides listeners with a sense of transparency and consistency that has been lacking in communities these last several months. Originally set to record in Nashville, Tennessee, with producer Jason Garner, Richardson found herself having to adjust to recording during a pandemic.

“Most of these songs were written, produced and recorded in my bedroom closet,” Richardson explained. “Because we didn’t know how everything was going to last, we decided I’d just record and produce tracks to the best of my ability in my bedroom and then send these songs to him online. From there, Jason (Garner) would further produce, mix and perfect my tracks until we got our song.”

The first song on the upcoming album is the title track, “Maniac.” Upon listening, I find myself transported to a New York City jazz club in the 1950s. One can practically smell the thick layer of cigarette smoke and taste the gin and tonic.

In short, “Maniac” is an elegant, well-blended time capsule of a tune that combines rhythmic patterns of old school jazz and swing drumming with a more modern approach to production elements (sampling keyboard, horns, etc.). For the sake of comparison, imagine Frank Sinatra meets Lana Del Rey with undertones of Van Morrison; jazzy, smooth and mysterious.

After a strong and captivating opening track, the singer from Pennsylvania transports us from a 1950s jazz club to a Sunday morning walk in the park with her song, “Call it Love.” If “Call it Love” was a painting, the strong production serves as the canvas for Richardson while her beautiful vocal harmonies and synthesized undertones serve as thick, dignified brush strokes.

“Most of these songs were written, produced and recorded in my bedroom closet.” -Hannah Richardson, local artist

The noticeable absence of drums during the chorus provides for a unique change of textures while Richardson’s flawless vocal transitions over the chord changes of the verses, bridge and chorus really highlight her singing ability.

Moving ahead on the album, we arrive at “Trippin Out” and “Already Mine.” Each has “radio” written all over it, albeit in different ways. “Trippin Out” delivers an upbeat, pop-oriented tune with a strong chorus that practically begs listeners to sing along.

“Already Mine,” written by Michael McGee and Michael Kachani, strikes a recognizable chord of nostalgic jubilance. “Already Mine” might serve as the best example of Richardson’s impressive vocal range, and one can’t help but think that Whitney Houston would be impressed by Richardson’s vocal stamina as well as her ability to hit melodic notes on a syllable.

Furthermore, the powerful vocals over classical-style chord changes are reminiscent of something out of a Broadway musical or even a song from a classic Disney movie. By embracing the theatrical elements of this song, combined with an ability to sing quietly while still remaining exquisitely detailed (Hozier’s “Work Song” or “Like Real People Do” come to mind for comparison), Richardson demonstrates a control and vocal maturity in “Already Mine” that is far beyond her years.

Despite being titled “Invisible Man,” it is quite easy to see and hear what makes this song such a success. Blending elements found in all four previous tracks, “Invisible Man” is highlighted by its synthetic orchestration, serene vocals and firm yet subtle drumming. This is a song that songwriters across all genres can learn from, as Richardson absolutely nailed this one.


Richardson once again demonstrates her wide array of influence and knowledge of different styles with her song “Annmarie.” Not only did I find myself replaying “Annmarie” several times before finishing the album, but I started the song over only about halfway into it.

I was floored by what I was hearing, and I am certain that you will be too. The vocal stylings reminiscent of ’50s and ’60s jazz singers, exceptional production and aggressive harmonies have me sitting here convinced that this is my favorite song on the album. Styled similarly to an Alma Cogan piece, with vocal elasticity reminiscent of Adele and Amy Winehouse, “Annmarie” packs a brilliantly powerful punch.

To close out the album, we are left with “Crystal Ball” and “Cheers.”

“Crystal Ball” stands out in the sense that it is our first taste of country from Richardson, at least on this album. Listeners familiar with Richardson may recognize the folk/country sound that defined her first album, “Chasing Rainbows”. While certainly not a classic country song, Richardson’s use of synthetic fiddle, rhythmic tambourine and acoustic strumming all stand out on this tune, particularly in the chorus.

Bringing it all home, “Cheers” is fittingly named and appropriately positioned on this album. “Cheers” is a sort of celebration or culmination of all the songs prior. “Cheers” provides an uplifting and positive pop experience, reminiscent of Sky Ferreira, while also providing a tight and precise ending to an album that could truthfully include even more songs.

Despite the challenges presented over the last few months, Richardson’s fourth album “Maniac” is an elegant display of grit, tenacity and emotion. Richardson’s singing on the album is as captivating as it is calming, as mighty as it is soothing and as consistent as it is dynamic.

While her vocals will immediately stick out to anyone listening, her talents go much deeper than singing and this deserves recognition as well. Richardson’s top tier production, progressive lyrics and clear understanding of songwriting components all help to provide a unique and enjoyable listening experience for music fans of across all genres.

“Maniac” will be available on Oct. 23 across several platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play. You can also follow her career progression on Facebook or Instagram.

Jeremiah Janzen can be reached at or on Twitter @JeremiahJanzen.