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It’s been a few years since Illinois-native Elisabeth Maurus, better-known in the music world as Lissie, has released a new record. Catching A Tiger, 2010’s full-length release, was a well-received, original blend of folk, rock, and Lissie’s raw, powerful vocals; 2011’s Covered Up With Flowers was another popular release, a six track album made up exclusively of covers, including tracks originally by Kid Cudi and Lady Gaga. With those two albums under her belt, Lissie has solidified her success and is back with new, original material. As WERS’ Artist of the Week this week, we were ecstatic that she was able to make it into the studio Wednesday afternoon before her show at the Brighton Music Hall, bringing a full band with her.
The first song they performed was “When I’m Alone,” off of Catching A Tiger. A tense, emotional song driven by Lissie’s vocals, it’s a mixture of her signature belting on the chorus and verses of fast-tempo, relatable lyrics, all held over a steady drumbeat and powerful bass line. The narrative in the lyrics are honest as Lissie lays her vulnerable side out on the line, singing, “And when the phone rang/and I thought it was you/and I sprung like a kid/who just got out of school/but it’s almost/always never you/never you,” followed by the chorus of, “When I’m alone with you/you make me feel/you make me feel.” There is a strength to Lissie’s guitar skills and voice that keeps this song from becoming self-pitying. Lissie is a musician who is open and unapologetic about who she is and how she feels, a sentiment that she holds to tightly in all of her music.
Following “When I’m Alone,” Lissie and her band treated listeners to new music with “They All Want You” from her forthcoming album, the title of which Lissie revealed as Back To Forever. This track was a departure from the preceding song—although the lyrics were laden with Lissie’s trademark openness, there was an overtly melancholy shroud around the sound, exploring the difficulty of watching the person you care about fall victim to people who just don’t care about him or her. As Lissie crooned lines such as, “But I’m the one that sees you/and the party people leave you,” and, “Everyone wants to be where you are/to bathe in the glorious light of your star/they all want you.” It’s meandering, thoughtful, and seems strikingly personal. Lissie doesn’t hesitate to invite listeners into her world, presenting her experiences fearlessly. It works in her favor, lacing her music with an authenticity that can be difficult to find in musicians today.
Of course, Lissie addresses that very issue in her song, “Shameless,” also off of Back To Forever, a single that has been getting a significant amount or airplay here on WERS. Definitely one of the poppier releases from Lissie, it still retains Lissie’s edge, creating a gritty, almost aggressive track as Lissie proclaims, “I don’t want to be famous/if I got to be shameless.” As often as the word “swagger” gets thrown around these days, and as annoying as that word can be, there really is no other way to phrase it—it’s a song with a lot of swag, a sort of anthem for anyone fed up with the superficiality runs rampant amongst those hungering for fame for the sake of fame.
From the three tracks Lissie touted into the WERS studio, it was made clear that she’s got a range both with her voice and with the genres she can cover. Of her much-anticipated September release, Back To Forever, she explains that she doesn’t feel it’s radically different from past releases, but is still confident in her progression as a musician, simply stating, “As I go along, I’m finding out more what I do and don’t like, and finding out what I wanna say and how I wanna say it.”