A few weeks ago, the music critic and author Steven Hyden invited me back on his Celebration Rock podcast to discuss our favorite sleeper records of 2018 so far. Early on in the conversation we established that where indie rock albums are concerned, basically anything other than Snail Mail’s universally (and rightfully) praised Lush could be considered a sleeper in the current music media landscape. I’d add Soccer Mommy, Beach House, and a handful of others, but you get the point. Given the limited attention span afforded by the ever-churning press cycle, anything short of a unanimous hype storm is liable to leave an album unnoticed by all but the most voracious music seekers.
That said, attention still operates on a sliding scale, so even if you never checked out the latest Parquet Courts or MGMT or Iceage albums, you dedicated music fans out there probably were at least aware those bands have new releases out. Which is why I felt so confident serving up Liza Anne’s Fine But Dying as a genuine under-the-radar gem: Not only have you probably not heard it, you also probably have never heard of it. And you ought to change that.
As I said on the podcast, Liza Anne — based in Nashville and signed to Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts label — reminds me of a kind of pop-rock singer-songwriter we don’t often see in the mainstream anymore. I think during the show I compared her to Sheryl Crow and Meredith Brooks (of “Bitch” fame). That’s a little reductive, but it gets you in the ballpark. Margaret Glaspy’s smart, snappy guitar pop is a more modern parallel, though in Liza Anne’s case the impressive six-string work takes a backseat to pop polish.
Not that there are no guitar heroics to speak of. “Paranoia,” Fine But Dying’s opening track, has a big fuzzed-out bridge that snarls its way back to the smooth, soaring chorus. The subtly devastating “Closest To Me,” which first caught my attention, is a weepy country-tinged ballad. New wave rave-up “Small Talks” could pass for latter-day Paramore, whose Nashville festival Liza Anne is performing at next week. “Panic Attack” gleams and glides with the best of them. There’s no proper narrative hook to latch onto here, just a stack of impeccable songs.
But I digress. Fine But Dying will soon no longer be the newest entry in Liza Anne’s discography. Today the singer announced her new Dreams EP, headlined by a cover of the Cranberries song of the same name. That’s a timeless tune, of course, and Liza Anne puts her own spin on it — I encourage you to check it out below — but I promise this cover is not going to delight you like Liza Anne’s own songs will. So listen to “Dreams,” but spare a few minutes for Fine But Dying too.
Some words from Liza Anne on her song choice here:
Some of my most visceral memories from childhood happened with my aunt. I’m named after her, so I think I’ve naturally gravitated towards discovering things about myself through her — she’s always felt more like a sister than an aunt. When I was a kid, we would drive around my hometown listening to records — it was in that passenger seat, with that woman, with my name that I first heard “Dreams.” I’m not sure how old I was but the way it hit me felt like a beginning. I don’t usually like to cover songs — there’s a holiness in the way a song is originally experienced that feels sacrilegious to tread upon — but when Dolores passed this last year, I felt like I needed a moment of meditation for the portal that she gave me. I never got to see her perform this song but its existence gave me a hint towards what I wanted to do with my voice and my mind and my body and the time that I stay alive.
02 “Turn For The Worse (Thad Kopec Rework)”
03 “Kid Gloves (Thad Kopec Rework)”
04 “Kid Gloves”
The Dreams EP is out 9/14 on Arts & Crafts.