Dischord – Liz Phair

Music Reviews Liz Phair
Dischord – Liz Phair

Diary of the month

by Jeff Elbel

Liz Phair’s newest project, Somebody’s Miracle, evinces maturity through balance. Though unlikely to shed the provocateur’s image, Phair now celebrates life’s joys (“Count On My Love”), while still airing the dirty laundry during “Why I Lie.” Like 2003’s Liz Phair, this album sports a similar mainstream-pop sheen. It’s the sound of indie-rock darling Phair becoming comfortable in her own skin. “Wind in the Mountain” recalls female pop-boundary pushers Aimee Mann and Alanis Morissette, while preaching perseverance through the tough times. “Stars and Planets” bounces like the goddaughter of The Beatles’ “Getting Better.”

Unflinching honesty is Phair’s throughline. Somebody’s Miracle looks with sad envy upon those who attempt committed relationships and make them work. Similar to poring over a friend’s diary, hearing “Everything to Me” feels almost like an invasion of privacy. The key to understanding Phair as an artist is realizing she trusts her audience with her most tender secrets. The more intimate the detail, the more universal it becomes, and the deeper the bond with those who—for better or worse—can identify all too well.

Diarrhea of the Mouth

by Andrew Earles

As if her shamelessly calculated mainstream reinvention in 2003 as “sultry mom meets fourteen-year-old mall slut” wasn’t confusing enough, whatever scarcely identifiable indie-rock cred Liz Phair may’ve once possessed has now been parlayed into the realm of … CMT countrypolitan (?!?!). OK, so given its predecessor’s lame shot at Top 40 glory, perhaps the sheer awfulness of Somebody’s Miracle isn’t really that jarring. Listening to it now, I can envision a field-traipsing video for, say, “Wind In The Mountain” or “Everything To Me” sandwiched between Montgomery Gentry’s latest jingoistic meltdown and the commercial for a Chevy extended-cab pickup truck.

The crossover has worked (commercially) for some artists, like Exile, who promptly fell into the loving arms of modern country after failing to successfully follow up their afternoon rock hit, “Kiss You All Over.” Barely offset by a radio-ready power-pop rocker or two (“Can’t Get Out Of What I’m Into”), Somebody’s Miracle further makes Phair’s past involvement with Lilith Fair and Matador Records seem downright alien in comparison. The use of hotshot producers John Alagia (Dave Matthews, John Mayer) and John Shanks (Sheryl Crow, Chris Isaak) merely underlines the album’s shameless chart-scaling aspirations.

Reader’s Poll Results:

Diary of the month: 79%
Diarrhea of the Mouth: 21%

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