April 3, 2019 Lissie – When I’m Alone: The Piano Retrospective (Album Review)
We last heard from exceptional songstress Lissie in March of 2018 when she delivered the magnificent Castles. Back for more and looking to the future via the past, she’s poised to deliver a very special collection for 2019, When I’m Alone: The Piano Retrospective. The (obviously) retrospective album arrives Friday, April 5, 2019, thanks to Cooking Vinyl.
Singer-Songwriter Lissie may have taken to the stage by the age of nine, but her official start in music came in 2010 with the release of her debut album, Catching a Tiger, an apt description of finding success in the music industry. Fortunately, Lissie has crafted an impressive career for herself – and caught that proverbial feline – with album’s like 2013’s Back to Forever and the aforementioned 2018 collection, Castles.
She has even developed a reputation for her phenomenal covers, which pay homage to the truly eclectic likes of Lady Gaga, Fleetwood Mac, Danzig, and more. With the sensual grit of Lady Gaga, soul-bearing of Christina Perri, the languid caress of Lana Del Rey, the gentle spirit of Stevie Nicks, and so very much more, Lissie is a woman on fire, musically speaking.
“When you take a song out of its production and strip it down to its basic elements, you get the heart of the song,” muses Lissie. She does exactly this on the 11-track When I’m Alone: The Piano Retrospective. A re-imagining of her best-loved and career-defining tunes, the collection strips her songs down to their most intimate and vulnerable selves, allowing her pristine voice and poetic songwriting to truly shine.
The album opens to the delicate piano work that accompanies Lissie on “Don’t You Give Up On Me,” creating an intimacy that reigns throughout the collection. Placing a solid emphasis on her soft yet sultry vocals, the alternate arrangement of the My Wild West (2016) track strips everything away to focus the spotlight onto the song’s lyrics and Lissie’s passionate delivery.
Next, her exceptional storytelling anchors “Sleepwalking,” which initially appeared on 2013’s Back to Forever. The experience paints an intimacy that feels like sitting in the back corner of a darkly lit club, listening to Lissie pour her heart out just for you — which, in truth, describes the entire collection.
With her dramatically soft, fine wine vocals, Lissie takes “Everywhere I Go,” originally off 2010’s Catching a Tiger, to newly impassioned heights on this reworking. The titular track from her 2018 album, “Castles” sees its electronic atmospherics stripped away and, thus, it loses its danceable beat. Instead, the newly invigorated reworking shifts the focus to its beautifully lulling melodies and those poetic lyrics. Here, Lissie delivers one of her most lofty vocal performance of an already inspiring collection.
Catching a Tiger’s “When I’m Alone” goes for a perfectly stepped rhythm that accentuates Lissie’s dramatic vocal theatrics, perfectly relaying that feel of utter heartbreak. Another selection from 2018’s Castles, “Love Blows” revels in the raspy-soft low end of Lissie’s vocal register, creating a sultry take that confesses the difficulties of love.
Known for her exceptional covers (although when is she not exceptional?), Lissie places her own spin on the Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams.” Here, she wraps her vocals around the track and embraces every note with respect and tenderness, creating a be-spelling take that proves that she could easily be the next Stevie Nicks.
My Wild West’s “Daughters” once again seeks to celebrate women around the globe and give them a voice. While that voice is softer in volume here, it’s certainly no gentler in spirit. Fiercely, passionately, Lissie promises, “Women of the world, we have a voice!”
Another Castles selection, the self-reflective, rose-colored glasses of “Best Days” anticipates the goodness ahead. Meanwhile, Dixie Chicks’ classic “Cowboy Take Me Away” might initially seem a strange selection for a cover, but it fits flawlessly into the fold. Lying on a pillow of blue bonnets, Lissie climbs heavenward in a magnificently emotional moment. Ultimately, she ends with another offering from her 2010 debut, the modern fairy-tale of “In Sleep.” Here, for her grand finale, she places the spotlight onto her exceptional storytelling skills.
It would be hard to say that Lissie is not truly and completely remarkable at what she does. There’s a sincere passion embedded in every sultry note, every twinkle of the ivories brings about chills as she weaves poetic tale after poetic tale. Sometimes, Lissie muses on love, while at other times, she empowers her fellow women. The end result is a talented and intelligent women with a moving oeuvre of material to her name.
When I’m Alone: The Piano Retrospective pays homage to all of these facts, compiling a list of reworked, intimate and emotional offerings that are yet another reminder of Lissie’s capabilities and her understated artistic genius. Much like a minimalist artist, here she uses the bare minimum to relay her messages, strengthening the aural appeal and emotional present of her already wonderful material. Simply put: one cannot say enough great things about Lissie! For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give When I’m Alone: The Piano Retrospective 5 of 5 stars.