Lissie - Catching a Tiger

Antonio Rowe 04/08/2010

Rating: 4/5

Gaga, Florence, Marina, Ellie, Adele, Amy, Duffy, Nicki Minaj, Laura Marling, Caitlin Rose and Rox - it's fair to say this current influx of women in music is certainly not a flash in the pan, with some of the listed names above now being critics' favourites and household names. And with the arrival of more female faces imminent, it may come as a surprise to you when I say Illinoisan Lissie's debut Catching A Tiger manages to fill a market void that hasn't yet been satiated by said influx.

While Marina and Gaga are trying to outdo each other in the kooky fashionista stakes, Lissie is happy and content to spend her days idly strumming her guitar with a bottle of whisky to boot. This 12 track collection is one of similar simplicity that's slightly addled with quirky surprises. For example, when Lissie is dangerously close to emulating Sheryl Crow in her heyday (not exactly a bad thing) with 'When I'm Not Alone''s catchy hooks and intertwining guitar riffs, the rapidly undulating vocal delivery of the verses gives the song a welcome edgy offset. It's this mixture of accessibility and experimentalism that's etched throughout Ms Maurus' songcraft, whether it's the sudden arrangement change seen in 'Little Lovin'' or the little touches of Pink Floyd etherealism seen in 'Bully', there's always something that surprises the listener - meaning multiple listens don't feel laboured but rather the opposite, a pleasurable need if you will. With each repeat spin there is a celestial squawk or a taut groove you missed the first time around that rises to the foreground.

Whilst her sonic flirts between the mild mannerisms of country music and the rough exteriors of classic rock, her lyrical topics are restricted to mainly one theme - love. But just because she likes to sing about it, it doesn't mean she falls for it so easily. 'Stranger' - a personal highlight of mine - sees Lissie brushing off an already committed shady pursuiter. The feisty lyrics are the perfect compliment for the optimistic surf-pop twinges that the taint the song:

I thought you said that you were single
So what's that thing hanging around your finger
You caught me all alone
When a knock came at the door
That brought me to my feet
And dropped you to the floor

Lissie's country-girl-cum-rock-n-roll-groupie cry was one of the main reasons why the media began to proclaim her as the new Stevie Nicks, but here her dulcet tones take a backseat and are more used as a tool to coax out the golden countrified melodies. So when those exiguous moments that permit her voice to reach it's true potential do arrive it's even more astounding, like on album opener 'Record Opener' where the melody entwines with Lissie's voice, gathering more momentum by the second. The result is a vocal-soaring, goosebump-inducing climax and a similar spotlight is focused on the vocals when album closer 'Oh Mississippi' begins to play. These examples of volume control and knowing when 'to belt it out or button it up', so to speak, are just more aspects that make Lissie so unique from the rest of the current female roost.

This album is a great plethora of rock n roll/country songs but it's not one that doesn't come without its lulls: 'Loosen The Knot' seems slightly contrived, almost as if it was created to attract the mainstream attention. Nonetheless it's clear that Lissie has a bright future ahead of her, she just has to choose which path she wants to go down.

Release date: Out now