Lissie goes rogue for My Wild West

My Wild WestSome works of art take a little time to appreciate, of course. Your friend protests an early defeat: it's a slow burner. It heats up halfway through the trilogy. It takes a few listens. Undoubtedly that can be true, and I don't mind waiting; in the meantime, you'd better know how to tell a goddamn story. Five seconds into Lissie's My Wild West and I'm hooked, the opening instrumental rattling to a close just as it's picked up pace. Already, I don't care where she takes this story. I just know I'm going to enjoy hearing it told, and she's not even opened her mouth yet.

When she first does on "Hollywood", it's brandy on a cold night, warming and luxuriant. "I'm through with all that make-believing," she declares, taking a break from Los Angeles altogether to head back to the midwest. It's a true story. The Illinois girl took up residence in the Golden State more than a decade ago, and has since released two previous albums (both hit the UK Top 20), opened for the likes of Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz, and was even asked to perform at Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's wedding, which is about as Hollywood as it gets. It's a lot to run away from, but by the time we reach the Sia-esque drama of "Wild West", she's already "going rogue" and halfway home.

The city and the country form a powerful dichotomy for Lissie, who veers between the former's promises and the latter's comfort: "Can you tell I like temptation less and less every day?" she sings on "Stay", the centrepiece of a melancholy thread that runs through the album's middle. "Daughters" channels those frustrations into righteous anger, her country-pop swoon rising to a yelp as she takes aim at misogyny. It's a voice that lends itself to the bombastic well enough - don't be surprised if she's bagging co-writing credits with popstars bigger than Robbie Williams in years to come. (Hopefully Black Francis isn't one of them, lest he picks up on the slightly bizarre "Where Is My Mind?" re-write of "Shroud".)

Occasional demons aside, the singer ultimately seems to have found a degree of peace. The album closes with "Ojai", a tribute to the less frenetic home she's made for herself in the Californian mountains. It's an alt-country ballad from the Jenny Lewis school of songwriting, and like everything here, offers the listener the straightforward pleasure of a well-crafted piece of music. It's not a complex, challenging piece of art that requires days and weeks of scoping for emotional entry points, but there's enough of those in the world. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and let yourself be charmed.

Release: 12th February 2016, Cooking Vinyl

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