PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Lisa Germano: In the Maybe World

Lyrically, In the Maybe World is quite good. Musically, it could induce narcolepsy.


Lisa Germano

In the Maybe World

Label: Young God
US Release Date: 2006-07-18
UK Release Date: 2006-07-24
Amazon
iTunes

Lisa Germano doesn't owe us anything. Already, she's graced us with some of the loveliest music to fall into the "underground" label, her all-but-trademarked breathy vocal style and extreme musical serenity never less than gorgeous. Her last album, Lullaby for Liquid Pig, is one of the most beautiful odes to addiction (and the complications that go with that addiction) that has ever been written, flitting in and out of disparate musical styles while never quite losing the sense of utter stillness that she has, of late, become known for. Her willingness to try different styles of percussion, instrumentation, and methods of melodic development kept an album that easily could have been construed as dull from ever even approaching such a label.

No such luck with In the Maybe World.

I will grant her this -- I don't know that Ms. Germano will ever again write a poor lyric. Whether literal or metaphorical, terrestrial or celestial, her words don't smack you upside the head so much as they drip into your consciousness, a slowly leaking faucet that you never want to fix. Her topic this time is death, whether it be a literal, physical death or something a bit more abstract, like the "death" at the end of a relationship. This latter sort of death forms the basis of perhaps the greatest song on the album, the brutally honest "Red Thread". A beautiful subtlety in the mix allows Germano to play out both parties in the end of the relationship in question, starting with civil discussion that devolves into profanity-laced back-and-forth, eventually finishing on "I love you / I love you, too", sung not in the spirit of reconciliation so much as resignation. It's the album's standout, a devastating highlight that serves as the album's primary raison d'être.

Other highlights include the wide-eyed wonder and fatalistic longing of "Into Oblivion" ("Somewhere, someone's freezing / Somewhere I saw blue eyes believing / But all along, I need to go into obvlivion / Oblivion, I love you / Maybe it's time we said goodbye") and the Jeff Buckley tribute "Except for the Ghosts" ("Except for the ghosts / Except for the memories / Accepting the waves / And waving goodbye"). It's no coincidence, most likely, that many of the most poignant lyrics do end with the word "goodbye".

The problem is, it's easy to lose the lyrics when the music gives us no reason to listen to them. The one word that keeps coming to mind when trying to describe In the Maybe World is "soupy", all opaque and slippery and grounded in not much of anything. It's as if the sustain pedal is down on every instrument, all reverb and atmosphere creating something that does well enough for a "mood", I suppose, but the "mood" is always the same. Regardless of what the lyrics might be in these songs, every song is a slow dirge, sometimes with percussion but usually not, and often with very, very repetitive vocal lines from Germano herself. Perhaps she is using her medium simply as a way to get her words out, but what starts out sounding like a genuine stab at intimacy starts to feel contrived by the end, when all of the quiet instruments and breathy, softly-sung vocals wear and grate like so much sandpaper. Songs like "A Seed" and "Wire" just sort of pass without presenting a single interesting musical idea, and granted, they're both over in under two minutes, but they both feel longer than that, as they are simply quiet waits for the songs that follow.

In fact, most of the album feels like a wait -- we wait for something to happen, for something to make us care, to cause a shiver in the skin or a tingle in the spine. But for a few moments in "Red Thread", that something never arrives.

It's very likely that In the Maybe World was conceived for just that effect, an attempt at subtlety, portraying a death that comes slowly and gradually (and, by implication, painfully) rather than suddenly. Whether it comes slowly or quickly, however, an album about death should make us feel something, whether that something be shamed relief, acute sorrow or something in between. The "something" that I should be feeling as Germano meditates on the various manifestations of death never arrives, leaving us in a lucid coma, with neither the satisfaction of an enlightening awakening, nor the finality of a last breath.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.