There’s been no shortage of talented singer-songwriters with lovely folk-tinged indie tunes – and joining the likes of Laura Gibson, White Hinterland (Casey Dienel) and Jennifer O’Connor is Lisbee Stainton, affectionately known as the ‘English rose’.
A common criticism of this crowded genre is that the artists tend to sound similar, and it’s true – a lot of the time we’ll get generic indie pop we’ve heard a million times in Michael Cera and Ellen Page movies with ‘quirky’ lyrics, so it’s a real treat when a gem like Lisbee comes along with her solid 12 track number, Girl On An Unmade Bed. The album is a compilation of material she wrote over the years; the oldest dates all the way back to when she was sixteen. Though not a concept album, the tracks gel together nicely, quite a feat considering how three different producers had worked on the album including Rupert Christie (Coldplay, Kate Bush). Recording was also done in different locations, from the legendary studios at Abbey Road to a lofty barn in East Sussex.
Laced with the lighter, airy aspects of folk, the songs are rich with hummable melodies and awash with trembling strings (featuring the London Metropolitan String Quartet) and ambient pads, held down by rubbery acoustic bass and crisp percussion.
What stands out the most is Lisbee’s classical-influenced guitar work. Her custom eight-string acoustic finesses the songs, sending waves of emotional chords across a sea of spacious stereo reverb. Lisbee’s vocals are homely and pleasing, comfortably falling somewhere between Kylie Minogue’s saccharine croons and Dido’s husky whispers.
The album opens with Red, where listeners will find themselves immersed in elegant orchestral strings that gently surround Lisbee’s soft vocals. Held down by mellow drums and frosty cymbals, jazzy double bass lines drive the song forward. Lisbee’s versatile songwriting is evident in tracks like Is Whispering, an upbeat radio-friendly pop tune with interesting rhythms and lovely chords.
There’s something for jazz fans as well – Rainbow features smooth saxophone trills and walking acoustic bass, backed up by cheerful doo-doo daa-daa scats. Lisbee shines the most on her emotive ballads. Waiting Game has trembling string swells and crystal-clear guitar plucks that splash colours of classical tones into the air. Her lyrics are poignant and clever, thankfully avoiding the ‘quirky’ cliché.
One or two tracks may suffer from the generic-girl-with-a-guitar syndrome, but only if this type of music is not up your alley. Having just completed a Europe tour with Joan Armatrading, the future looks bright for Lisbee – she says her album due out next year is going to be conceptual. Girl On An Unmade Bed is available from her official site where the whole album can be sampled. Watch her Myspace for gig dates.