Lissie - Back To Forever
Now we’ve all heard about the difficult second album - sometimes it’s true, sometimes it isn’t. Do you play it safe? Or spread your wings? Sometimes it’s a different line-up, or a new record label. For whatever reason second albums seem to have more pressure on them than any other in an artist's career. Probably because it’s seen as make or break. Do or die. Sell bucketloads or be dropped. Thanks to the X-Factors of this world and the digital age of single tracks over albums, it’s the music industry we deserve, not the one we necessarily need.
Into this ongoing challenge steps Elisabeth Maurus, more commonly known as Lissie, with her sophomore album. Her debut, Catching A Tiger was a mix of soft rock and autobiographical Americana, with a couple of melancholy ballads mixed in. It was modestly successful, particularly in the UK where Lissie toured for what seemed like two years straight. If you’ve seen her live then you’ll know there’s always been a rockier artist in the background just waiting to get out. On Back To Forever we hear more of that Lissie. Gone are the infectious veering-towards-pop tracks, and the ballads have disappeared too - both replaced by a full album of widescreen rock.
Cleverly, she’s already aired two of the best tracks: ‘Sleepwalking’, the sweary rant against our celebrity obsessed society, and her heartbroken missive ‘Further Away (Romance Police)’. In fact so good was the reception that the album release was pushed back a month, maybe to move away from the crush of new releases in early September. Opener ‘The Habit’ completes this triangle of rock to illustrate the updated version of Lissie. Her Stevie Nicks-style vocals are still intact and she actually sounds better here than on Catching A Tiger.
‘They All Want You’ slows things down, and ‘Shameless’ has a Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac feel to it, a summery rock-pop concoction. The anthem for everyone that has a 9-5 job, ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Work’ has an eminently hummable melody, before protest song ‘Mountaintop Removal’ goes heavy on the angst and screeching guitar, and gets a little overwrought along the way. ‘Love In The City’ is about as ballad-y as she gets, which is not at all really, and it’s the start of a late lull as the middle of the road ‘I Bet On You’ is a little lacking. There’s a slap in the face from ‘Cold Fish’ though, which wakes you up with its shouty, aggressive chorus. You wouldn’t want to be the subject of that (“You’re all style and no substance / You don’t care who you hurt”). ‘Can’t Take It Back’ is a fun, if lightweight, rocker, and finishing with the softest track is a nice idea. ‘Back To Forever’ is a wistful song, full of background violins and children laughing; the cynical may find it cheesy, the rest a glimpse back to the old Lissie.
Back To Forever isn’t the grower that her first album was, it’s more in your face and immediate but lacks the depth and ongoing joy that was present there. She has made it successfully past the second album though. With a tweak to her sound she’s maybe brought on board some that were put off by the apparently lightness of her recorded material. This second album merely confirms what fans of her live shows have known all along. Lissie likes to rock - and that’s no bad thing.