Lissie’s “Catching a Tiger”: Music review

Lissie’s first release was her 2009 EP “Why You Runnin'”, and while it contains some strong songs and is definitely a memorable debut, the 2010 album “Catching a Tiger” is worlds above. Three of the five EP tracks where reissued on the 2010 album (“Little Lovin’”, “Oh Mississippi” and “Everywhere I Go”), but they seem to sit better in that context, and there are nine other very strong tracks on here to accompany them.
For me Lissie is a revelation, even though she’s clearly been on the scene for most of the decade before coming to my attention, and has garnered a significant fanbase and respect including everyone from Lenny Kravitz to David Lynch. Lissie’s debut album contains all the power of a Florence + The Machine release (yet without perhaps that overly bombastic quality of Florence that makes me feel somewhat battered after listening), with all the dizzying momentum of a Joan as Policewoman record.
Her voice, with its touch of Dolly Parton, is instantly captivating from the opening “Record Collector” as it swoops through the octaves of her range and through the luscious melody hooks. The percussion reminds me of Gomez’ “Whipping Picadilly” while the song structure drifts towards the kind of artfully flexible territory of Tim Buckley without getting too shapeless, moving into a kind of slow “Don’t let me be misunderstood” tribute line before bouncing back with a passage whose tempo and chord progression is somehow reminiscent of Kate Bush’s “Babooshka.”
The album continues the high pace straight into the restless “When I’m Alone” and the explosive “In Sleep” with its full-on no-holds-barred lead guitar solo outro.
“Bully,” a treasure-trove of melodic hooks, takes the tempo down a notch, and “Little lovin’” drifts languidly from a kind of early cheeky Bob Dylan fingerpicking territory into bluesier stuff.
“Stranger” seems like it would just be far too ambitious to pull off, but there it is: 90s indie pop rock meets 60s pop song brilliance, little hints of Motown records like The Miracles or The Supremes.
A Roger MgGuinn / Tom Petty guitar sound lifts “Loose the Knot” from its urgent, moodier verses, opening the track up gracefully. The charming “cuckoo-coo!” backing vocal on “Cuckoo” feels like an intentional nod to the Beatles’ “The Walrus,” and that seems fitting because there’s indeed something early Beatlesy in how listenable and pleasing these songs and melodies are.
The instrumentation pulls back to let Lissie’s voice fill out the spaces and ring with emotion and reverb in “Everywhere I Go.”
“Worried About” is tight and insistent, a song about a claustrophobic relationship with a draining negative personality lacking in self-awareness or self-care.
“Look Away” tricks you into thinking there’s some re-working or cover of a Dylan song (“Look away from my window! Look away from my door!”) before unfolding into another one of those “Is that Dolly Parton?” moments with compelling vocal jumps before the album closes with the solid “Mississippi,” co-written with English singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt.
I check out a lot of new music, often unable to tolerate more than a track or two before knowing it’s more of the time-wasting sludge that abounds too frequently on the airwaves. Sometimes I come across artists that seem worth a further listen, and I grab a CD or two. Sometimes that’s very rewarding. Rarely do I stop in my tracks and give the album repeat listens. Lissie’s debut album gains in power each time!

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