Lissie — Castles (23 Mar 2018) •★• The fourth album from Lissie Maurus opens with the gentle patter of rainfall. This MOR country folkster hasn’t exactly embraced musique concrète, but she is willing to embrace a more expansive sound.
•★• Best known in these parts for singing on four tracks on the last Snow Patrol album, Fallen Empires, she continues to purvey a polished and sanitised sound that is exceedingly Starbucks~friendly.
•★• The title track features the most histrionic guitar and vocals this side of an old~school Timotei advert. Blood and Muscle is a stirring but ultimately pointless “I won’t give up” anthem. Best Days plods along in a similar vein, and sees Lissie badly rhyme, “I went to college but I didn’t wanna, so I dropped out to move to California~ah.” Lissie repeatedly tells us she wants more best days, and concludes, “The best days of my life are coming for me.” Feel Good repeats the same party trick ad nauseam, reciting the same sentiment over and over again. “What am I going to do?” she asks on the final track. Her existential pleas are in vain, as a lucrative career in millennial mall muzak surely beckons. (Eamon Sweeney)
Birth name: Elisabeth Corrin Maurus
Born: November 21, 1982, Rock Island, Illinois, United States
Location: northeast Iowa, moving there from Ojai, California
Genre: Singer~Songwriter, Folk, Pop
Album release: 23 Mar 2018
Record Label: Lionboy Records / Cooking Vinyl
01. World Away 2:33
02. Crazy Girl 3:34
03. Castles 3:36
04. Blood & Muscle 3:53
05. Best Days 2:53
06. Feels Good 3:31
07. Boyfriend 3:58
08. Somewhere 3:24
09. Love Blows 2:53
10. What Am I Gonna Do 4:05
11. Peace 3:39
12. Sand 3:52
13. Meet Me in the Mystery 3:04
℗ 2018 Lionboy Records under exclusive licence to Cooking Vinyl Limited
•★• Lissie resides on a 47.7~acre farm in northeast Iowa, moving there from Ojai, California, in 2015. She is a fan of fantasy literature, citing His Dark Materials and the Harry Potter series as favorites. She had a Lhasa Apso named Byron, which passed away in February 2018 after 12 years due to an autoimmune disease.
→→ Nearly two years after the release of her most acclaimed work to date, Lissie is ready to follow~up My Wild West with Castles, which is set for release on March 23rd, 2018 and will be released via Lionboy Records.
→→ If My Wild West was Lissie lighting a spark to make certain that the world began to take notice of her talents, than Castles will be the record that finds the songstress adding kindling to what she built, now prepared to make a more striking statement than ever before. At least, that’s what the first single to be released from the forthcoming album suggests.
→→ “Blood & Muscle” feels like a natural progression in the evolutionary process for the songstress, who has further perfected her craft over the past couple of years. The songwriting behind it is more marvelous than ever, while Lissie’s delivery is nothing short of stunning. It aims to leave the listener in sheer awe, “Blood & Muscle” succeeding at that with absolute ease.
→→ The purely piano~driven tune allows Lissie to pour her heart and soul into the track, something that is evident thanks to the impassioned vocal performance she gives. “Blood & Muscle” is the product of every fiber of her being; personal feelings laid bare for all to gaze at. She sounds desperate and anxious at times, while an overwhelming sense of hope permeates other moments of the track that examines love from an ever so slightly different perspective.
→→ There have been plenty of songs about wanting more in one’s love life, though this song just feels different from the vast majority of those. It’s due to the subtle differences in the perspective; and that is a hallmark that any great songwriter should possess: to be able to take something typical and find a way to breathe new life into it.
→→ “I want a love that’s made of blood and muscle…” There’s an optimistic aura radiated by that line of the chorus (as well as the chorus in general). It acts as a unique way of saying you want something real. Something with substance; the rest of the chorus detailing what one hopes to get out of their ideal relationship.
→→ Much like the dating game can be, “Blood & Muscle” is fraught with perils, from the first verse, detailing what comes across as being time wasted on a person, to the second verse. “The crows fly higher and higher. Their cries sound like a choir in the sky. It’s like they’re taunting me.” That segment paints a dismal picture, conveying a sense of isolation and possibly perpetual loneliness, before a ray of hope breaks through.
→→ At its heart, “Blood & Muscle” is a bit of a defiant song, because it’s one about not settling. Its focus revolves around not compromising yourself in the least, even if that makes the road to love more arduous than it already is. It brilliantly captures the hardships that that can bring, Lissie using her exceptional voice to capture every conceivable emotion that could arise from being so resolute. Because of that, it’s overwhelmingly real and honest, as she bares the deepest part of her soul to the listeners.
→→ Truly, Lissie’s vocal performance is nothing short of ravishing, “Blood & Muscle” acting as vessel to showcase how superb her voice is. Flawless even, as she belts out some parts with authority, demanding one give the song their unwavering attention. The wide ranges she explores vocally allows her to make the track all the more emotive; while the backing vocals that are carefully layered on top create some gorgeous harmonies that finely punctuate it.
→→ “Blood & Muscle” is Lissie kicking things up a notch — or even two, pushing herself into territory where she is not just worthy of the masses knowing her name but deserving of it. And if this gem is an indicator of what is yet to come from Castles, then she will probably be taking the world by storm sooner rather than later.
•★• Lissie Maurus was raised in the riverside town of Rock Island, Illinois, and she drew upon those blue~collar Midwestern origins to create her own form of indie folk music. The granddaughter of an international barbershop quartet champion, she grew up singing in theater productions, eventually picking up the guitar and playing her own songs at local coffee shops as a teenager. Lissie was also something of a rebel; she got thrown out of high school during her senior year, spent a brief period at Colorado State University, relocated to Paris for a semester, and eventually ditched college altogether to pursue her music career. Returning to the U.S., Lissie headed west and settled in Los Angeles, where she became a fixture on the local venue circuit and landed a national tour opening for Lenny Kravitz.
•★• Lissie’s music had already appeared on shows like The O.C., Veronica Mars, and House by the time she moved to California, and she widened her fan base by launching a weekly songwriter’s circle at her local bar, Crane’s Hollywood Tavern, and releasing a self~titled EP. Things truly began picking up speed in 2009, though, when Lissie released the dusky Why You Runnin’ (partly recorded in the U.K.) and toured the country alongside Ray LaMontagne.
•★• Although she also made several appearances in America — including a standout performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and a single date with the rebooted Lilith Fair — Lissie spent most of her time touring Europe, where her debut record, Catching a Tiger, was released in June. An American release followed in August, courtesy of Fat Possum Records. Featuring production from a handful of artists including Jacquire King, Julian Emery, and Ed Harcourt, Catching a Tiger built upon Lissie’s folkie California sound with a commercial appeal that helped land it in the Top Five of the U.S. Billboard Folk Albums chart and number 12 on the U.K. Albums chart.
•★• After an extensive period touring, particularly in the U.K., Lissie returned to the studio in 2012 with producer Garrett “Jacknife” Lee — who had also produced albums for Snow Patrol and Robbie Williams — to work on a follow~up. In October 2013, Lissie delivered her second full~length album, the glossy, ‘80s soft rock~influenced Back to Forever. The covers EP Cryin’ to You followed a year later.
•★• In 2016, Lissie released her third studio effort, the Curt Schneider~produced My Wild West. Recorded in Los Angeles, Ojai, and Nashville, the album had a moody, noir~ish feel. It debuted at 16 in the U.K. and 171 on Billboard and was followed in the autumn by Live at Union Chapel. ~ Andrew Leahey
• Catching a Tiger (2010)
• Back to Forever (2013)
• My Wild West (2016)
• Castles (2018)