Lissie is a newcomer from Illinois who has garnered quite a reputation over the last few years. Named Paste Magazine‘s best new solo artist of 2010, but she’s already been listed among the nominees at the Grammy Awards in 2008 with The Longest Road, up for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical, a song she had vocals on and co-wrote with DJ Morgan Page as remixed by Deadmau5. Her songs have made appearances in television on shows like House, The O.C., One Tree Hill and Veronica Mars. As well as renewed 90s dramas Melrose Place and 90210, and her song Everywhere I Go has been on So You Think You Can Dance. Catching A Tiger is her first full-length album released last year.
One of the first noticable things about Catching A Tiger is the production. On their own, the songs sound great but on this record they hide behind slick pop production that becomes increasingly distracting. You’re hearing the outer layer of what sounds like great pop music while underneath are songs better suited to be simpler, stripped down, intimate recordings. As a result, the songs themselves risk getting lost in the stuffle because they don’t stand strong on their own and end up becoming forgettable. It’s too pop to appeal to fans of folk music and too folky to appeal to fans of pop music.
At times, the production sounds awkward, such as the lovely country-folk blend Little Lovin’. A basic kick drum beat supports Lissie’s vocals and her chanting “I gotta lotta lovin’/I gotta lotta lovin’/I gotta lotta love in my heart” with layered guitars and backing vocals. Simple in nature but a lot of unnecessary sounds. Everywhere I Go feels like it should be intimate yet sounds blown up as if it is meant to fill a stadium but the amount of emptiness in the mix gives the recording a sense of booming hollowness.
Of course the production isn’t all negative when taking the songs into consideration on a separate level. However, this can result in an album that lacks consistency in that instant. For example, there are a lot of situations of “this sounds like…” The pleasant Cuckoo sounds like Avril Lavigne if she were doing a coming-of-life road-trip song. Stranger, one of the highlights on this album, blends what it would sound like if She & Him and Tegan and Sara had a musical baby. Bully is reminiscent of a song that could have originally been on Jewel‘s Pieces Of You record. The simplistic presentation in melody and vocals with lyrics about growing up and becoming independent while still having a sense of vulnerability and a desire to keep a tight bind to home and childhood.
Lissie’s best asset is her voice. On the album closer Oh Mississippi, a piano ballad that borders on gospel, she focuses more on her vocals which in turn show her versatility following the previous eleven songs. Of course, she is likely enhanced by the reverb but on here, it is fitting as it enhances the song and makes it more inspiring.
Catching A Tiger is a solid record as it stands but it’s a case of “what could have been”. It will definitely be worth keeping an eye on her with future recordings and albums as she hopefully focuses more on what she’s capable of making musically and less on what the production is capable of.
1. Record Collector
2. When I’m Alone
3. In Sleep
5. Little Lovin’
7. Loosen The Knot
9. Everywhere I Go
10. Worried About
11. Look Away
12. Oh Mississippi