lisa germano / magic neighbor review

the wire / tom ridge

she’s resumed her solo career with a sense of continuity and freshness.

Tom Ridge/The Wire December Issue 2009


It can’t be easy being a female singer-songwriter when you’re either being expected to bare your soul or be consistently off the wall, or possibly both at the same time. If, like Lisa Germano, you’ve been around a while, label-hopping and then fading out of the mass ‘alternative’ consciousness, then you’re up against the sheer marketability of, say, Florence And The Machine. Germano is, however, far from being an artist in retreat. Once signed to 4AD, she later dropped out of sight while remaining a musical collaborator on various projects. Now signed with Michael Gira’s Young God label, she’s resumed her solo career with a sense of continuity and freshness.
Magic Neighbor is her second album of new material for Young God. It’s a short work, but it never feels slight. Here Germano is part confessional artist, part unreliable narrator. And while the opening instrumental “Marypan” is indicative of some vaguely mournful, wistful mood, it is swiftly followed by the sucker punch of “To The Mighty One”. Here the shift in focus is from a kind of slacker-romantic ennui to a passive-aggressive revenge fantasy. “The Prince Of Plati” is similarly unsettling, where the narrator appears to be a seducer/manipulator whose intentions are cloaked in the yearning vocals and the lilting lullaby pace of a romantic ballad. Amid some eerily close-miked vocals and atonal detours there are more straightforwardly expressed emotions, and the overall tone is one of calculated lugubriousness, but Germano’s intelligent songwriting keeps things from getting too doleful.