Since her very first EPs Lisa Mitchell’s song craft has been called every variation of fairy-like and sweet and sparkly. However, the gravity of new influences built up along her two past albums has led Mitchell from her folk-pop beginnings to a mature and compelling new sound.
With the raw talent she has always possessed and some newfound strength comes a glimmering, deep, and heartfelt new territory. She enlisted US producer Eric J (Flume and Chet Faker) to help with the jettison of her predominantly acoustic arrangements, and in the process polishing off more melancholy, sharper sonic edges which make up her new album ‘Warriors’.
Opening with crystalline synthesisers and a crisp beat, lead single The Boys pulls us straight into a world of dreams and sunny drives. However, electropop flickers and reverb lends Mitchell’s vocals a tinge of sadness that layers upon its otherworldly quality. As the song draws to a close the lyrics, “I think that I’m beginning to care”, add a strong sense of intimacy moved by the recent passing of someone close. Mitchell’s delicate, ethereal vocals strip us right down to vulnerable younger selves.
“Mitchell’s delicate, ethereal vocals strip us right down to vulnerable younger selves.”
Title-track Warriors with its pensive synths and fragile vocals is a sombre elegy for the fleeting nature of youth. Far from sugary poems that breeze straight past the lyrics are in a boyish way, weighted and mindful, “we were the kids from the country/keeping it real in the suburbs”.
Delightfully reserved, Warhol features Mitchell’s vocals that shimmer above a driving instrumental backdrop and chunky effects. Despite its charm and restraint, the track betrays a subtle sense of brooding. Mitchell seems to cry out to the artist Andy Warhol, who was famous for his artistic commentary on consumerism. “I felt betrayed by something and was still fuming and at a loss when I wrote the words. I kept hearing Warhol through the melody I was mumbling…as if he were a dear confidante,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell’s sunlit pastel shades return with Unravelling and its dainty vocals are reminiscent of her single release Wah Ha. Sonically it’s a sojourn to the country side, the first sight of a loved one, a puppy running through a meadow. Lyrically it shines with pop sensibilities, bright and bubbly, “I see you dancing out/I hear you singing your song/unravelling/ravelling”.
So Wild opens with frazzled beats and vocal impulses that spiral towards an impassioned climax. Its hypnotic lyricism is fuelled by a mix of emotions and fantastic visions, “There is a phoenix rising from the ashes/I see the magic in your eyes/darkness is but a dream/you’re so wild”. Distortions contrast the frenetic yet delicate vocals making this one of Mitchell’s most exploratory tracks yet.
From the title alone a caffeine addled reviewer may have suspected this next track was a cover of Haddaway’s What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More). What Is Love is actually a tender acoustic folk ballad that is enchanting as it is beautiful. Lyrically it’s a love song, a poetic reflection enhanced by its lonely chords which are reminiscent of 80s alt band Mazzy Star. Sonically, Mitchell’s emblematic wispy vocals bring a sorrowful luminescence to this candlelight song. Stripped down to a solo guitar accompaniment, Mitchell’s vocals are featured at the height of their charm and elegant fragility.
Where Are You is a light feel-good track that harks back to Mitchell’s earlier writings. With its dreamy overtones and warm lyrics, “Where you are, is where I am/Wherever you fall you’re already home”, it’s a very easy listen.
“Lisa Mitchell is that close friend you never had, the infrequent confidant to your sorrows, the kindly girl next door.”
Josephine will likely be an underrated track on the album with its ultra-light harmonies and introverted lyrics. Each line is an uplifting zephyr, each syllable that is oddly emphasised has a kooky gracefulness. The album’s concluding track Love, Death X incites a deep melancholy with its exposed vocals and rolling guitars. The fluttering vocals are faint but never mundane, delicate but never small.
Lisa Mitchell is that close friend you never had, the kindly girl next door that is the infrequent confidant to your sorrows. Mitchell’s worldly travels seem to have inspired a new depth to her semi-acoustic offerings. Sonically and thematically, ‘Warriors’ not only proves Mitchell’s talent as a songwriter but cements the musical growth that she has experienced in the past few years. The album expresses a desire for experimentation that hoped to be a stride in the right direction, but instead it’s landed all the way on rich, green pastures.