EP Review: Lissie – Why You Runnin’
(Posted at TLOBF.com)
Female singer-songwriters are a strange breed – far less diverse than their male counterparts, they mostly (apart from a few, pioneering individuals) can be easily placed into one of these very specific categories: you’ve your vengeful, guitar-wielding angry ladies, all bile and vengeance (See: Early PJ Harvey and Liz Phair), your piano-wielding fruitcakes, all doe-eyed coos and thinly-veiled pain (See: Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Polly Scattergood), and you’ve your folky types, with their gently plucked-guitars, pine-smell and ruminations on wood choppin’ (See: Alela Diane, Joanna Newsom, Marissa Nadler, Scout Niblett, Josephine Foster, Mariee Sioux, Jana Hunter… the list continues… ).
Before even listening to the first note of ‘Why You Runnin’’, you don’t need Poirot-esque detective skills to suss out that Mississippi singer-songwriter Lissie falls squarely into the latter category – everything about Lissie screams ‘winsome folk singer’, from the more than slightly hyperbolic myspace profile (‘her sass and her inability to be phony, to be anything other than a talker, a good hug, a warm and affectionate sweetie pie, a light-hearted sprite…’) and the painfully self-aware dropped ‘g’ in her EP title (I mean, really? Are grammatical errors the new by-word for authenticity?), to her cutesy, flaxen-locked good looks, so rife in female folkstresses.
Lissie’s brand of woodsmoked blues is entirely pleasant, exceedingly listenable, and, regrettably, completely interchangeable with dozens upon dozens upon dozens of other doe-eyed songstresses with sweet freckles and an acoustic guitar.
That’s not to say Lissie isn’t blessed with talent – there’s no denying that the girl’s pipes are stunning, her voice ranging from a husky, coy growl to a soaring, choirgirl peal with enviable ease, and there’s no doubt that ‘Why You Runnin’ will surely delight listeners who’s capacity for beguiling female folk singers hasn’t already been stretched far, far beyond its limit – but ‘Why You Runnin’’ feels tired and dull – a hopelessly dreary trek along a completely over-trodden path; every lazily-plucked guitar chord rings with predictability, and Lissie’s listless drudge through same old dreary, worn folk sentiments – of church bells and corn fields – should feel like déjà vu to all of us who weren’t hibernating in mars this passing year.
However, not all is lost – there’s a glimmer of hope in this otherwise overwhelmingly generic EP in the shape of album closer ‘Here Before’, which finds Lissie stepping away from her erstwhile russet, southern-fried blues and inching meekly into something slightly gothic-tinged, austerely beautiful and infinitely more compelling, reminiscent of the shadowy noir-folk of acts such as Espers and The Duchess and Duke.
All in all, ‘Why You Runnin’’ is, by no means, a bad release – the songs are pleasantly inoffensive, impeccably performed, and – in theory – highly appealing, but Lissie is a small fish in the insanely crowded, overwhelmingly talented female singer-songwriter pool, and ‘Why You Runnin’’ simply isn’t compelling enough to warrant any kind of repeat listen or to set her apart from her many, many peers.