Lisa Mitchell returns this week with Warriors, the follow-up to 2012’s Bless This Mess and 2009's debut Wonder. The album sees Lisa moving away from her folksy roots and taking steps towards a more mature sound, incorporating more synth elements than previous records with the help of Flume producer Eric J. But while the crackling percussion and heavy beats are well executed, the album is most successful when she steps back and gives the songs room to breathe.
It's a mixed bag. The pop-driven tracks on the first half of the record, such as gently fizzing opener “The Boys” and the tinkling music box style of “Unraveling”, are clearly meant to form the hook for the album, indicating something of a new direction. But the synths and keyboards on Warriors are hit and miss. Their production is sleek and danceable, and the performance itself is skilled, but couple them with Lisa’s gentle, fluttering voice and something doesn’t sit right. Rather than making her soft vocal bold and powerful, the synth-pop seems to crowd it, meaning it doesn’t quite have the space to take flight. “Warhol” and “So Wild” are the exceptions, the former shifting and the latter more rhythmic, bordering on animalistic. The title track and “I Remember Love” aren't quite as successful and, though lyrically introspective, fall a little flat.
The second half of the record drops some of the synth-pop and eases back into Lisa Mitchell's earlier folk output. “What is Love” is stripped back and intimate, just Lisa’s vocal and an acoustic guitar, and with the extra space her voice seems stronger than elsewhere on the album. Likewise, the piano-led “Wherever You Go” and “Love, Death” are introspective and bold in their vulnerability. “Josephine”, however, is the clear standout. The track is both soaring and tender, piano and guitar mingling with the understated electronica. The elements come together more cohesively here than on the rest of Warriors and show what the record might have been. Lisa Mitchell's latest effort is hinting at something developed and mature, but it’s not quite there yet.
Release: 14th April 2017, Parlophone