Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Liz Tormes – Limelight

Long admired by New York’s songwriting elite, Liz Tormes has a new album, Limelight, that should help the rest of the world get to know what the Lower East Side has known for years. Intense, brooding, sultry and frequently wrathful, the power in Tormes’ casually wary voice resides in ellipses, the spaces between notes, the unsaid and conspicuous absences – she doesn’t raise it much, so when she does the effect packs a wallop, especially when she adds just the hint of a snarl at the end of a line. Her tersely crystallized lyrics are much the same: she says a lot with a little. Behind her, a tightly fiery Nashville gothic band swings, sways, clangs and roars its way through a mix of midtempo and slow, tuneful Americana rock. The arrangements are hypnotic, often psychedelic: if Aimee Mann had done with guitars what she did with keyboards on Fucking Smilers, it would have sounded a lot like this.

The album opens auspiciously with Read My Mind, a searing tale of disillusion and abandonment with a ferocious Jason Crigler slide guitar solo out, ending in a cloud of dust. It’s a classic of its kind. Without Truth has a hypnotic feel and characteristic understatement:

I know you can’t relate
But what I really want for you
Is to fly right and fly straight

With its echoey layers of guitar, the title track, a 6/8 ballad, sounds like Mazzy Star with balls. Maybe You Won’t follows, swaying trip-hop rhythm over simple muted guitar strums, backing vocals by Teddy Thompson – and no stupid drum machine. “Is it ever coming, have I been forsaken?” Tormes insists on an answer. She introduces a muse who provides bitter, metaphorically loaded solace on the matter-of-factly shuffling Don’t Love Back:

Take the wind and stay on track
Stop loving things that don’t love back
You can’t control the outcome all the time

And the garage-rock kiss-off ballad Sorry has the ring of sarcasm: “Paper posies and shiny things don’t make the earth rotate,” Tormes reminds, gloating not a little: “I’ll stay and play in the sunshine and vanish in the shadows.” There’s also a southwestern gothic, Steve Wynn-style number with Crigler’s layers of guitar blending ominously with echoey electric piano, a similarly guitar-fueled noir blues and a backbeat country hit whose upbeat melody make a sharp contrast with Tormes’ angst: “If I have better days let them come.”

With Bob Packwood’s insistent staccato piano bouncing off a wall of guitars, Fade Away closes the album on a driving yet vividly wounded note. This one’s been out since last year, so we’re a little late on the uptake which means that you’ll see it somewhere around the top of our best albums of 2010 list at the end of December. In the meantime Tormes promises a followup to this album sometime in the relatively near future.

March 18, 2010 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. yes! this is one of my all time fave cds!!!

    Comment by audrey | March 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. such a stunner album

    Comment by roisin | March 18, 2010 | Reply

  3. i listen to this CD all the time and it never gets old..

    Comment by sam | March 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. saw her and her band @ rockwood last month.. amazing.. i recommend giving them a shot next time they play

    Comment by jim | March 19, 2010 | Reply

  5. they’re playing the Rockwood on May 3 (full band show) – I haven’t seen her play live in ages, I’ll try to make it

    Comment by the boss here | March 20, 2010 | Reply

  6. awesome.. will be there!

    Comment by sam | March 23, 2010 | Reply

  7. I FEEL LIKE I’VE MISSED SOMETHING GOOD. WILL CHECK THIS ONE OUT.

    Comment by ANN | March 23, 2010 | Reply

  8. great songwriter..
    gonna check out her live show

    Comment by ben | April 28, 2010 | Reply


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