Release Date: Feb 12, 2016
Record label: Thirty Tigers
Lissie, in many ways, is emblematic of the millennial/post-millennial generation’s golden promise: follow your dream, work social media, find believers, win! Moving to California, her progressive folk found advocacy in Lenny Kravitz, who took her on tour; Paste, who named her the Best of What’s Next in 2010; major-label support from Columbia UK and the trajectory a wunderkind “voice of a generation” long on cred should expect. For all the acclaim, the young Midwesterner with the intriguing, earthy alto—one that contains hurricanes of emotion without feeling wrought, then glimmers like a flicker of light on water—finds her most potent work measuring what many would consider defeat. After banging against a plateau, Lissie came to grips with the liar’s poker nature of the dreams Hollywood feeds you.
The third album from Elisabeth Maurus chronicles a period of flux: moving back to the midwest after a decade in California, and leaving Sony after two UK top 20 albums. It opens impressively – Hollywood and Hero mine the same seam of exquisite sadness that Lana Del Rey does so well, while Don’t You Give Up on Me mirrors the FM-friendly folk-pop of Haim. Equally powerful, Ojai is a stripped-back and heartfelt goodbye to her adopted west coast hometown.
Illinois singer Lissie’s third album My Wild West has a west-coast pop sheen to it, but touches of acoustic guitar and banjo suggest a country feel. This contrast mirrors the album’s theme: Lissie’s retreat to a rural life in Ojai, California, after becoming disillusioned with Los Angeles ( “You broke my heart just like I knew you would,” sings Lissie on Hollywood). Producers Curt Schneider and Bill Reynolds from Band of Horses have allowed a space and subtlety that add integrity to Lissie’s lyrics.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It must be weird to survey the current musical landscape as Lissie. When the Illinois-born folk/country/pop artist arrived on the scene back in 2010, very few people were creating the kind of acoustic pop, but with a real emphasis on pop, that she was. Indeed, her break-out single 'The Longest Road' was co-written by DJ Morgan Page, whilst her first EP featured a song co-written by Ed Harcourt.
The possessive in the title of Lissie's third album is telling: no matter how often this echoes the slow, narcotic sway of Lana Del Rey, this California is conjured by Illinois native Lissie, an adult-alternative singer/songwriter who has slowly crept away from the folk roots she displayed on her 2010 debut, Catching a Tiger. Back then, she was bright and earnest and also bold, her burnished vocals had the grit in the gloss, a combination that amounted to a U.K. hit and set the stage for 2013's Back to Forever.
When Elizabeth ‘Lissie‘ Maurus first appeared back in 2010 with her debut album Catching A Tiger, she seemed like the quintessential LA pop performer – it was full of instantly appealing, steadfastly middle of the road pop songs that sounded perfect on FM radio. The follow-up, Back To Forever, delivered more of the same, owing a big debt to Fleetwood Mac in their mid-’70s pomp. Why, she even covered Go Your Own Way and it seemed like it was written especially for her.
Lissie Maurus’ debut Catching a Tiger boasted venerable personnel—collaborators of Tom Waits and Modest Mouse, among others—some very pretty production flourishes that rewarded close listens, and the impressively yarling voice that got Lissie discovered, but in retrospect it’s easy to see how it got overlooked. Lissie, despite beginning her career working with the likes of DJ Morgan Page, sits squarely in the Hotel Café roster that’s nurtured the careers of the likes of Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, and a pre-sales-singularity Adele—a substantial yet critically shrugged-at genre better known these days as "songs you probably heard on 'Grey’s Anatomy' or something once. " This isn’t a criticism so much as fact: Had Catching a Tiger or follow-up Back to Forever been released in the '90s, when this sort of thing was as mainstream as pop got, Lissie might have been a star and would have deserved it.
"Maybe it's time that I was leaving," sighs Lissie Maurus in opening her third LP with "Hollywood," which plays throughout as a personal reflection of turning away from pop-star ambition to something more real. And revealing. Still armed with compositional skill and stunning vocals, Lissie's resignation from California dreaming sets her on a better path, trading instant stardom for a higher-upside career – more Florence Welch than Lana Del Rey.
Sometimes getting far away from the pop-making machine frees an artist to create the music closest to her heart. That seems to be the case on Lissie’s third record: independently released, deeply felt, and cloaked in melancholy. Edging back toward her singer-songwriter roots, she relies on a leaner guitar-driven sound. The heartache built into her bluesy voice adds plenty of soul to the clear-eyed songs about relationships and searching for one’s place in the world.