After more than a decade, Liz Phair has finally reemerged to deliver her seventh album. Wrapped in the airily varnished production of Phair and Brad Wood--co-producer on several of Phair's major releases, including her seminal 1993 debut Exile in Guyville--the sweetly melodic Soberish stands in stark contrast to the grim mood enveloping a nation still in crisis mode. While the inattentive ear may perceive Phair's new release to be one more in an expansive line of indistinguishable pop rock offerings, a second listen should reveal it as the musically educated, lyrically sincere near-masterpiece it most certainly is.
‘Whatever happened to Liz Phair?’ is one of those questions that occasionally arises. For Phair should have been one of music’s biggest stars, had her career taken a different path. Her 1993 debut, Exile In Guyville, was one of the all-time great records, designed as a song-by-song reply to The Rolling Stones‘ Exile On Main Street.
With her records Exile In Guyville, Whip-Smart, Whitechocolatespaceegg and 2003's self-titiled record all garnering critical praise - as well as a Grammy win for the Chicagoan with indie-rock chops - she's now returning after eleven years with her seventh studio release. A cohesive record, on Soberish Phair sounds polished, clean and equipped with a new arsenal of songs about breakups, addiction and small glimpses into her inner workings. The biggest cuts, "Spanish Doors", "Soberish" and "Dosage", tune into focus the playfulness while being grounded; a second (or third, or fourth or fifth in Phair's case) coming-of-age record of sorts.
Soberish is Liz Phair's first album in 11 years. There is a lot riding on this one. Her 1993 debut Exile in Guyville is an enduring alt-rock touchstone. Her mid-2000s foray into radio-friendly pop? Not so much. Unlike certain other artists for whom this is true--say, Weezer--Phair largely took the ….
Although Liz Phair preceded her latest LP with three of indie rock's most-maligned albums, the Chicago artist has afforded herself so much early-career goodwill that listeners will still tune in to Soberish, her seventh record and first in over a decade.
But it's Phair's level of undying buoyancy that makes Soberish such a divided listen. Produced by Brad Wood -- who recorded her critically-acclaimed debut, Exile in Guyville, and beloved follow-up, Whip-Smart -- Phair's latest LP could be looked at as a nod to her past and an attempt to recapture some of the early magic that defined her career.