By Herndon Hasty (Digital Performance Manager)
Even though my previous musical posts don’t reflect it, I grew up on rock and alternative, and while I’ve grown to really enjoy rootsier stuff, I hadn’t really meant to drift away from it as much as I have. While there are still bands out there that hit my sweet spot of musicality, honesty, and just plain rock, the genre has moved and fragmented away from this kind of sound.
Lissie is one of those sounds. Rich sounds without overproduction, heartfelt without being emo, authentic but still catchy and pop-worthy. Down to earth – a unique sound, but not trying-too-hard high-concept.
It’s such a retro concept, it’s almost fitting that her voice has an air of Stevie Nicks about it, and the first two tracks of her most recent album Back To Forever could pass as a cover from Fleetwood Mac’s heydey: The opening guitar riffs, the synth, the beat, the dusky voice.
Her sweet spot is on this faster end of the scale: The upbeat (When I’m Alone, Sleepwalking), the longing (In Sleep, I Bet On You), and the outright poppy (Cukoo). Lissie does well with a driving beat, no matter the tone or instrumentation.
It’s not her limit, though, by any means. She pulls back a few gears extremely well, whether it’s in a nostalgic mood (Back To Forever, Oh Mississippi) or the still rocking slow beat (Cold Fish), and the oddly protesty (Mountaintop Removal). She even uses her standout vocals to great effect on a cover of Danzig’s Mother, stripped down and with a clearly feminine voice but lacking none of the intensity of the original. See also covers of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, and of course Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way.
If you haven’t heard of her, though she’s a product of the US (hailing from Illinois by way of California) and her albums recorded in Nashville and LA, she has largely been an export: Her hits have all been on the UK and European charts, and while she has collaborated with standouts like Lenny Kravitz and even DJ Morgan Page, some of her most high-profile placements include tour work with Ellie Goulding before she became a crossover hit in the US, and an opener for a Joshua Radin UK stint.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
With two studio albums since 2010 and another three EPs, there’s plenty of variety to enjoy. Her most complete work is on 2013’s Back To Forever, but there’s a lot to be said for her original full album Catching A Tiger from 2010 as well. Her EPs are heavy on covers, including those mentioned above, but also include further reaches like Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness and even Lady Gaga.
With a new album coming out in early 2016 and plenty to enjoy in the meantime, she’s worth a listen this week, and worth watching in the near future.