Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the band TEEN – consisting of sisters Teeny, Katherine, and Lizzie Lieberson – split up in 2019 after releasing several albums of electronic-laced noise pop. While Teeny fronted the band, Lizzie’s new debut solo album shows a superb singer/songwriter with plenty of great ideas and powerful songs. Now going by Lizzie Loveless, the new album You Don’t Know is a stunning artistic statement.
With Loveless working alongside multi-instrumentalist Miles Francis, You Don’t Know is like a ten-song sampler of sophisticated, layered pop. Each track veers off into slightly different sonic territory while remaining remarkably cogent and consistent. The title track is a seductive, dreamlike ballad, delivered in a tender waltz time signature with woozy synth bass countering Loveless’ aching vocal delivery. “So don’t put your arms around me,” she sings, “If all you’re gonna do is say goodbye.” If the rest of the album was just more shimmering retro ballads, You Don’t Know would still be a great album. But it’s delightfully all over the place.
“The Joke” is a bit of psych-folk that uses an insistent acoustic guitar riff and subtle elements of percussion to give the song a measured feel. Futuristic keyboards add another layer, and the song’s inspiration is a health crisis Loveless endured that exposed her to vulnerability like never before, prompting deep reflection. “I’m now in a completely different place, a much better, healthier place,” she explains. In the song, she sings: “All I wanted was love / But love won’t find me / Oh the sky is full of doves / I hear them flying.”
“Eyes of a Man” continues the deep exploration of genres, as the combination of crunchy guitar riffs and lush vocal arrangements bring to mind St. Vincent at her most inspired, with futuristic keyboards that recall vintage Gary Numan. “Loveless” bops along to a motorik beat, describing a fever dream about falling hopelessly in love with someone. Against a relentless dancefloor vibe, Loveless sings, “This pain upon my chest / For you will not leave / And I cannot go / I’m stuck in a loveless blackhole.”
On “Hold Me Close”, Loveless takes a somewhat traditional, eloquent ballad and places it within a backdrop of ethereal synths, as if it were delivered from space. Eventually, standard instrumentation emerges out of the fog, but Loveless is unflinching, her delivery consistent through the change in atmosphere. It’s a stunning, chilling effect and serves to spotlight the stylish, eclectic nature of this unique album.
While You Don’t Know contains a great deal of unusual, seemingly incongruous arrangements and intergalactic synth squalls, Loveless can’t resist the pull of an excellent hip-shaking beat and some soulful crooning. “Again”, the album’s moody closer, has low-key funk in spades. “You ask me to stay, but it was too late,” and as the insistent beat chugs away, the synths and noise gloriously rise, as if Loveless is making a deliberately elaborate departure. By the sounds of it, she’s climbing aboard her spaceship, heading out to make another record. We should be so lucky.