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Album Review: Lissie – Castles

By on Tuesday, 27th March 2018 at 12:00 pm

Lissie Castles coverWhen we at TGTF last spoke to American singer/songwriter Lissie in a post-show interview at SXSW 2016, she had just moved from California back to her midwestern home of Iowa to find her roots after years living on the West Coast. She was also touring her album ‘My Wild West’, which was written and recorded as a kind of farewell to California. Now firmly established in the Midwest, Lissie has released a new record titled ‘Castles’, which is as much an exploration in musical sounds as it is an examination of the life she’s created for herself.

Ironically, despite Lissie’s decampment to farm country, the songs on ‘Castles’ are less organic sounding than you might expect, especially from a woman whose last album was firmly grounded in folk rock. Working with a host of collaborators including electronic artist Nick Tesoriero, Lissie has fashioned a dreamy, ethereal soundscape of synths, drum machines, and distant backing vocals. “When I wrote on a guitar I felt limited”, she says. “It was so much more spontaneous and natural to sit down with someone who would give me a beat and a chord progression on a synthesizer. I started having all these new ideas.” Lissie’s sonic experimentation places ‘Castles’ into a pop/r&b scenario, and while she doesn’t venture into uncharted pop territory, it’s a new sound for her, and the result is, predictably, a bit patchy.

Opening track ‘World Away’ sets the sonic tone with a hazy dream pop sound apropos to an album called ‘Castles.’ But Lissie’s raw singing voice, which was powerful enough to cut through hefty guitars and drums on ‘My Wild West’, doesn’t sit as comfortably in the new synthesised backdrop. Her natural raspiness occasionally comes across as abrasive, and the thinner underlying arrangements expose the squareness in her lyrics and vocal delivery.

The album gains momentum early with a strong trilogy of songs. Lissie’s voice is strong in title track ‘Castles’, whose fairy tale analogy and catchy refrain are immediately engaging. Piano ballad ‘Blood & Muscle’ ( has a smoky quality that suits the natural timbre of her singing, especially as the chorus builds to its dynamic climax. ‘Best Days’ has a  country rock feel which might have worked even better had Lissie more fully committed to it, under lyrics about wanting both “a pickup truck” and “a diamond ring”.

From there, the album begins to lose traction. ‘Feel Good’ and ‘Boyfriend’ carry on the country rock flavour, but the lyrics in both are trite and slightly preachy, as Lissie sings in the latter, “I don’t want a lover, I want a man / coming from the heart now, living in my heartland”. In an attempt to branch out from country rock, Lissie makes two overtures to r&b on ‘Castles’, neither of which is particularly successful. The vocal delivery in ‘Crazy Girl’ feels contrived when she sings “I’ve been talkin’ shit all of the time, other girls foolin’ around”, and the effect is amplified later in the tracklisting in ‘Love Blows’, where the understated synth backing exaggerates the stilted, uncomfortable lyrical rhythm.

Near the end of the album in ‘Peace’, Lissie softens her tone and weaves her voice delicately between the bass groove and the exotic plucked string instrumentation. Here she finds a sweet spot, and though the moment doesn’t last long, it’s an interesting suggestion of where she could potentially take this new soundscape. Final track ‘Meet Me in the Mystery’ is another strong piano ballad whose minor key harmonies reflect the elusiveness in its title, while electric guitar, synths, and percussion create a dramatic tonal tapestry behind Lissie’s naturally bewitching vocals.

‘Castles’ is without a doubt a brave departure from Lissie’s former folk rock sound. She gathered a host of contributors, including collaborators from ‘My Wild West’ and producers AG and Liam Howe to help her navigate the new soundscape but in the end, the album may have suffered from “too many chefs in the kitchen” without enough definitive direction or intent.


Lissie’s new album ‘Castles’ is out now on Cooking Vinyl. She will play a run of four live dates in the UK in April; you can find all the details here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Lissie is collected back here.


Lissie / April 2018 UK Tour

By on Thursday, 7th December 2017 at 9:00 am

American singer/songwriter Lissie will play a small handful of live dates in the UK next spring, following the release of her upcoming album ‘Castles’. The new LP is due for release on the 23rd of March via Lionboy Records and Thirty Tigers (North America)/Cooking Vinyl (UK). ICYMI, we’ve already featured videos for the first two singles from the new record, ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Blood and Muscle’, featured here on TGTF on Tuesday evening.

Tickets for the following shows are available now. You can find TGTF’s previous coverage of Lissie, including this live review from SXSW 2016, by clicking here.

Friday 6th April 2018 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Sunday 8th April 2018 – Manchester Gorilla
Monday 9th April 2018 – London Village Underground
Tuesday 10th April 2018 – London Omeara (sold out)


Video of the Moment #2750: Lissie

By on Tuesday, 5th December 2017 at 6:00 pm

Header photo by Gretchen Robinette

American singer/songwriter Lissie has announced a brand new album due for release in early 2018, almost exactly two years after her excellent 2016 LP ‘My Wild West’. To mark the occasion, Lissie has also unveiled a promo video for the new album’s latest single ‘Blood & Muscle’.

This sparsely-arranged piano ballad is clearly intended to showcase the unique beauty of Lissie’s richly textured singing voice, and its visual representation is equally straightforward. The imagery in the video alternates between stark grayscale and vivid color, as Lissie sings alongside a grand piano played by a notably absent pianist. The missing keyboard player is surely symbolic and poignantly illustrative of the sharp sense of longing in the song’s lyrics.

“I want a love made of blood and muscle,” Lissie sings, “real and warm and alive.” It’s a phrase that could just as easily describe her own vocal delivery in this song. Her voice here is as strong and graceful as ever, even in the vulnerability of her higher range, which she uses to powerful effect in the song’s chorus. Listen to ‘Blood & Muscle’ in the promo video just below.

Lissie’s new LP, to be titled ‘Castles’, is due for release on the 23rd of March 2018 via Thirty Tigers (North America) and Cooking Vinyl (UK). TGTF’s previous coverage of Lissie, including our feature of her previous single ‘Boyfriend’, is collected back through here.


Video of the Moment #2391: Lissie

By on Friday, 30th June 2017 at 6:00 pm

It’s been about a year since we last wrote about Lissie, and wouldn’t you know, she has revealed she will have a new album to be released next year. Following her barnstorming appearance at Glastonbury last weekend, she’s revealed a new track and its accompanying video. ‘Boyfriend’ the song itself is described as “a breezy and playful number” in the press release.

Like the video for ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ in January 2016, it has personal meaning for the American singer/songwriter. “It was shot in my home and on my farm in NE Iowa by O’bear Films/Talain Blanchon, I feel really excited to be sharing a smooth, summer groove as I prepare to release a new album in early 2018! I love to be in nature and liked the idea of pairing an almost country lyrical approach to a sultry jam.” Watch the new video from Lissie below. All of our coverage on her here on TGTF can be read here.



Lissie / November and December 2016 UK Tour

By on Wednesday, 20th July 2016 at 9:00 am

American singer/songwriter Lissie has just announced a tour of the UK for November and December of this year, including a show at London Koko on the 6th of December. The new gigs will support her excellent recent album ‘My Wild West’, which was released earlier this year via Cooking Vinyl in the UK and on Thirty Tigers in North America.

Tickets for the following dates will be available for general sale on Friday the 22nd of July at 9 AM, with presales beginning today, Wednesday the 20th of July, on Lissie’s official Web site. We at TGTF were lucky enough to catch Lissie in live performance earlier this year at SXSW 2016; you can read my live review here. Our complete collected coverage of Lissie is right back here.

Tuesday 29th November 2016 – Glasgow Old Fruit Market
Wednesday 30th November 2016 – Manchester Academy 2
Thursday 1st December 2016 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Saturday 3rd December 2016 – Birmingham Institute 2
Sunday 4th December 2016 – Portsmouth Wedgwood Rooms
Tuesday 6th December 2016 – London Koko
Wednesday 7th December 2016 – Brighton Concorde 2
Thursday 8th December 2016 – Norwich Waterfront


Video of the Moment #2142: Lissie

By on Tuesday, 19th July 2016 at 6:00 pm

Leaving home to follow your dreams is one of the main themes behind American singer/songwriter Lissie‘s remarkable recent album ‘My Wild West’. The flip side of that coin, and the juxtapositional foil on the LP, is coming full circle and finding yourself back home again. The latest single from ‘My Wild West’, titled ‘Wild West’, centers around Lissie’s initial foray into the outside world, its lyrics boldly declaring “I’m going rogue in the wild, wild west.” But the charming new video for the song is a decidedly more family-centered affair, and one that is undoubtedly representative of Lissie’s return to her native Iowa after 10 years making a career as a musician in California.

The making of the new video was overseen by Katie Horst and Talain Rayne of O’Bear Film, but the stars of the show are a clever group of brothers—Oliver (age 6), Emery (age 8), Elliot (age 10) and Nathaniel (age 12)—who were given free rein to create their own interpretation of Lissie’s music and lyrics. As you can hear in the video, the boys were apparently unfamiliar with Lissie prior to their part in this project. Nevertheless, their high energy and spontaneous antics perfectly capture the fiercely independent essence of her song.

‘Wild West’ is the new single from Lissie’s album ‘My Wild West’, which is out now on Cooking Vinyl in the UK and Thirty Tigers in North America. TGTF’s previous coverage of Lissie, including an interview with her at SXSW 2016, is collected here.



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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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