Indie Pop-Rocker Liza Anne Takes Us on a 'Bad Vacation'
On Bad Vacation, Liza Anne has found a way to be strong and survive. She's not drowning but waving.
Arts & Crafts
24 July 2020
Some artists mine specific genres. A listener can tell by the opening notes of their albums that it's going to be an (alternative, metal, pop, R&B, etc.) record. Other performers find influences from a number of sources. One can never tell where a song is headed by where it starts. Liza Anne's Bad Vacation is one of those. Eleven of the 12 tracks on the disc are all over the musical map. There are bits and pieces from everywhere: electronic sound effects, girl group tropes, grunge anthems, singer-songwriter confessions, sometimes on the same song. She cites artists as different as Kate Bush, Weezer, Cass Elliot, Hilary Duff, Lipps, Inc., Sonic Youth, Wings, Parquet Courts, and Diana Ross as inspirations on her latest release.
The one cut that remains consistent in style is the 14-second snippet of beach sounds that opens Bad Vacation and invites one to the shore. Listeners are advised to roll up their trousers. As Anne notes on the title track, "A bad vacation is no vacation." Like T.S. Eliot's Prufrock, Anne's on an introspective journey into her past faults. The difference here is that Anne has found a way to be strong and survive. She's not drowning but waving.
The album is divided into two parts. The beginning tracks mostly concern personal suffering. These songs of hurt can have a jaunty beat as a way of shielding the pain. She cheerfully jokes that "I Shouldn't Ghost My Therapist" when it's clear that she shouldn't. And there's the "Terrible Discovery" where the narrator learns, "I can't get away from me." Anne sings gleefully as if she's reliving a happy memory when the opposite is true. And there's the cathartic "Bummer Days" were Anne acknowledges that she gets off on her own pain. "When I feel good I make myself sad," she sings in a voice that purposely echoes Leslie Gore's schoolgirl lament "It's My Party". The difference here is that Gore's grief is another girl stole her crush. Anne's reaction to being dumped is woefully suicidal as she blames herself.
The narrator realizes she may not only be the source of her own grief, but she can also be the fount of her own joy on the last four cuts. Anne sings about "Desire" in positive terms. She may be worried about moving on "Too Soon", but that won't stop her from progressing forward. He wants to "lose her mind a little" by falling in love without overthinking her situation. She uses repetition to emphasize her points. The mermaids may not be singing to Anne as she ends the album, but she no longer needs the approval of others.
All of the songs are creatively constructed and feature Anne's elastic vocals to suggest her different mental states. Her lyrics express the confusion and chaos of depression as a sensible alternative to being numb before launching into more the positive puzzlement she faces by having to make better life choices. The production often seems cramped to mirror the protagonists' restricted mental states and features her touring band (guitarist Robbie Jackson, bassist Josh Gilligan, and drummer Cody Carpenter), in addition to Lou Hayat, who contributed to the project with synth parts and some spoken word (in French) vocals.
Bad Vacation invites one to share misery as a way of overcoming it. By treating unhappiness as a thing, one can find the humor in it and move on instead of being overwhelmed. That's a useful lesson to learn, especially in today's dire circumstances.