Lisa Loeb is among the rarest of musical treasures: an intelligent singer/songwriter who made it to the top based solely on her ability, rather than the marketing force behind her or how good her ass looks in a pair of Daisy Dukes. She has managed to take her music to the top of the charts, score multiple Grammy nominations and garner critical acclaim while retaining a comparatively low profile. Throughout her career ups and downs, she hasn’t strayed far from the girl-next-door image projected in her 1994 breakout single, “Stay (I Missed You)”, keeping her musical style honest and simple.
Loeb’s latest effort, Hello Lisa is proof of just how much she believes in her individuality, and her music. Much of the album’s content was released last year on the album Cake and Pie on A&M, who, according to Lisa, refused to give her any kind of promotion helping the album fail commercially. She decided to make the jump moving over to the smaller Artemis Records where she felt her music would get the time and attention she felt it deserved. And, well, as Loeb’s music has always exuded a living-room-on-a-rainy-night coziness, a smaller label seems right up her alley.
First single, “Underdog” is a great example of Loeb’s ability to convey delicate and difficult emotions using simplistic sentiments. “I like things that are so good / You are so, so good / I like you,” she begins, before hitting the listener with feelings of being ostracized and left behind by a potential (or current, perhaps?) lover—“I am the underdog / I am the last in line / Don’t be the enemy / Don’t stand in back of me.”
This is where Loeb’s strength lies, with the heartbreaking undertones fuelling her lyrics often betrayed by her ethereal vocals. She’s often bitterly direct, and while her childlike voice adds innocence to her songs, it’s still apparent that such innocence has been tarnished.
“Did That” is a great example of Loeb’s straightforwardness: “I think about a cut off date / So I memorized you kiss,” she sings when confronting a doomed relationship. She sits alone on her bedroom floor openly confessing her insecurities through cursing and accusing her man: “Did you ask [a psychic] about love and forever / Or did you ask her for her number?”
This idea of Loeb “sitting on [her] bedroom floor” is one of the many oft-forgotten and seemingly mundane positions she puts herself in which add a real sense of place and time to her songs. Throughout the album, we find Loeb and her partner sitting in the back of an auto-repairs shop on “Payback”; attending a friend’s barbecue on “Bring Me Up”; hanging out in a local parking lot on “Take Me Back” in a technique that allows each song a very conversational tone, as if the listener is the best friend Loeb is confiding in, airing her frailties and seeking advice.
Because of this, Loeb is fearless when it comes to pointing out her insecurities and transgressions. On “The Way It Really Is” (“I’m crazy / Why do I keep doing this”) and “Drops Me Down” (I’m injured again / And it’s sick / And I’m sucked in / Yeah, I’m at it again”) she ponders whether or not a failed coupling is her own fault, and on “Everyday” (“Once I went out just to look at the stars / I asked you to join me / But you were too tired / I wanted you to see them too / Why did I let myself need you?”) she takes this a step further, able to painfully express when a relationship is not working yet refusing to place blame on either side.
The majority of the songs on the album seem to chronicle a failing relationship, with Loeb and her man constantly at loggerheads over who is right and who is wrong in any given situation. She presents this situation honestly, never swaying one way or the other as to who should come out on top. She never brings her partner down, instead treating his actions, be they good or bad, with as much respect as she treats her own.
The songs on Hello Lisa are uncomplicated and easy going, exuding girlishness, effortlessly taking a decidedly raw edge when necessary. Her musings are smart and poetic, with her adorable voice always calm and efficient. And, to Lisa’s credit, I’m sure she looks fabulous in a pair of Daisy Dukes.
// Notes from the Road
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