Liz Phair – Soberish – Album Review

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Out this 4th of June, Liz Phair’s new LP Soberish, won’t disappoint all her fans around the world that have been waiting for this moment. This incredible artist, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and experimenter of music, melodies, sounds and lyrics is about to drop a dense work entirely informed by the inner meaning of its title. “I just like that word. It describes what I’m always aiming for, I never want to be entirely sober, but I also want to stay grounded enough. It’s almost like you’re toggling between two versions of very familiar selves” she explained. And about the soberishness state of being “It’s about a frame of mind that has one foot out the door,” she says “It’s anchoring yourself to the right thing but giving yourself enough anchor chain to sail around the cove and forget it for a while. Just hold to the center so you can swing around.”

Listed by Rolling Stone as one of the most anticipated albums of 2021, Soberish won’t leave you thirsty: an interesting and refreshing incursion into different, yet linked genres but with a steady and strong voice. 

Soberish’s first track, Spanish Doors, immediately grabs your attention, projecting the listener into some sort of grunge-inspired atmosphere, somehow reminiscent of Hole’s best pieces. The game changes “literally” with The Game, the second track of this interesting LP. Liz Phair here modifies the tone, from now on redirecting almost the entire album into another direction, one that with this piece and Hey Lou embraces more country/folk/pop lines. In There, arises, and slightly shifts into a soft pop ballad, very smooth, enveloping… the velvety voice of Liz jumping right after into the beautiful and melodic country-pop with Good Side.

After the slow, almost lullaby-ish Sheridan Road, some beautiful soft arcs open the road to Ba Ba Ba; right after enters the title track channelling everyday matters, Soberish. “Baby you’re a soul sucker…” are the lyrics opening the song, introduced by soulful piano lines. Lonely Street is a romantic ballad, followed by Dosage a multi-instrumental and very well-structured track.

Bad Kitty is irreverent as it appears to be: direct, funny, cheeky, mocking and at the same time profoundly timely. It anticipates the LP’s last, short piece, Rain Scene, a chanting that seems to come up from an old, jammed turntable. 

“There’s a lot of subtraction on this album. Making a song, pulling it apart and trying to get down to something surprising,” said Liz about this new record. “If I wrote the song on an acoustic guitar, and that’s the lead line, then pull out the lead line. Just pull it out and what do you have left and what can you bring in. I’m always trying to reinvent pop. I’m always trying to make something fresh and different on this record, so it doesn’t really sound like anything I’ve done before but it’s very recognisably me.”

Subtraction or not, this record won’t withhold anything from the pleasure of enjoying an album that, despite its apparent simplicity, drips multilayered modern subtexts.  Listening to this creation is like browsing a book, getting lost in its pages and its stories, induced into deeply light-weighted reflections about the “uncomfortable, turbulent, emotional world that we’re in right now” as this incredible storyteller says. 


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