Obviously the first thing we need to get out of the way is the band's name. No, Lisa Savidge is not a pastel flowery dress wearing, hemp necklace hanging, hummus for lunch eating, nag champa smelling chick onstage with an acoustic guitar whispering about aliens like a young Milla Jovovich in “Dazed and Confused.”
Hailing from Phoenix this five piece (all male) band seems to be able to morph their sound, touching on several genres within one song. Dan Somers, lead vocals and guitar, is somewhat of an anomaly as far backgrounds go for lead singers. Serving two tours in Iraq Somers has seen and experienced more than his fair share, with Lisa Savidge he has found a creative outlet for voicing opinions and emotions from his experiences. The rest of the group is rounded out by Ellery Keller (guitar, violin, vocals), James Krehbiel (drums, percussion), Nick Gortari (keys, vocals, guitar) and Patrick Lamaide (bass, noise). (I love when a band member has just “noise” in his forum.)
This is the band's second full length album, self titled “Lisa Savidge” and released under the label Black Cactus records. Lisa Savidge is also currently setting out on tour for those fans outside the Phoenix area. Their sound, as stated before takes subtle twists and turns, going from post punk, to shoegaze, to hypnotic jam and full circle.
The first thing about this album that caught me was its depth. Even if they are labeled with the word “pop” in their bio line, this is not a band to casually listen to. Their tracks are dense with no simple staple of sound. Each has its own path, twisting and turning while building up and releasing a blast of intricate layered melodies simultaneously. Borrowing a term from a certain lead guitarist of a group named “Led Zeppelin” their use of light and shade is nothing short of masterful.
The first track “Building your own HAM radio” begins with foreboding guitar picking, leading into a smooth jam allowing all the members to be heard. Near the middle of the track a transition is made adding more fuzz to the guitars and mixing in an interesting progression on keyboards/synthesizers, which adds a whole new dimension to the track.
The next two tracks, “Holding Me” and “Country Fear” serve almost as each other’s mirrored opposite. “Holding Me” is an upbeat very post punk sounding track with a searing and simple chord progression allowing Somers to croon “We all die young...” in the chorus. “Country fear” is a slower jam, subtly intricate in its layering of sound. Building on an acoustic guitar as its base, the droning synthesizer gives the track a slightly darker feel. Sommer's voice comes off slightly muffled over the layers of sound. This is not meant to be taken as a negative for the song, nor is it to be taken as a negative towards Sommer's voice. Some songs work well with low vocals and walls of layered sound, this being one of those songs.
The album, in my opinion, really starts to pick up steam with the fourth track, “Over.” A perfect example of light and shade. A nice chord progression with Somers crooning over begins evenly enough to allow the listener settle in for one fixated moment. Suddenly the songs hits its hyper drive button and blasts the listener back with an explosion of guitars, while Sommer's voice changes up to almost sound like Scott Weiland from “Stone Temple Pilots.” The song never loses itself in the changes - after the blast of sound it settles back down to earth and continues with a hauntingly intricate guitar and synth mixture that smoothes out any edges left from the sonic blast in the middle.
While the next two numbers are relatively short, their depth is nothing to overlook. “Headspace” is a medium paced number with hypnotically intricate guitar picking as an opening, allowing Somers to soft croon softly while the rest of the members join in part of the way through. A very cool jam leads featuring a soft solo by Somers leads the track to it's close. “90 Pills” (interesting title) opens up like a Greenday jam, the punkish feel and the building of the chain sawed guitar chords by Somers never loses its control, nor does it keep the other instruments from being properly mixed in. At different parts of the album's songs, each member has his turn to be heard. Balance is a key component of composition - for all the layered texture Lisa Savidge mixes in to their music recipe there is never an overbearing dominant sound. Each track and melody is evenly spliced offering a wide variety of textured tone and harmony to spill over in the listener's ear.
To my surprised enjoyment the band appropriately mixes in a beautiful instrumental track, (every album should have one) featuring Ellery Keller on violin. This track begs the notion that “Lisa Savidge” might not be a bad choice to score a movie. With dynamic members able to play a variety of instruments, along with the depth and seriousness in musical composition it would be interesting to see what they put together as far as an albums worth of instrumentals. (Note to self add Lisa Savidge to the list next to Johnny Greenwood as rock artists I would want to score my non-existent screenplay.)
The final three songs on the album in my opinion are gems and provide a sonically morphing landscape of sound that any intricate listener of music can appreciate. Lengthy jams pepper each track; while Somers even gives us some French singing in “You Killed Me parts 1-3.” Staying with You Killed Me” after the foreign language lesson the band breaks into an awesome groove mixing staccato guitar playing and percussion which really does give the track a foreign sound. “Appalachacha (pts 1 & 2) close the album by opening up with an almost “Radiohead – OK Computer” type guitar progression. (two Radiohead references, can you tell what I have been listening to lately.) Layered guitars and pulsating percussion drive the track building up the sound in layers at different intervals than breaking back down only to allow the harmonies to again ascend and cascade.
There is a lot to take in here from Lisa Savidge. Killing the terms “layered and textured sound” is not my intention but the depth of skill in their musicianship allows for dynamic shifts and genre bending progressions. Some listeners may get turned off by Somers low crooning tone - his voice is just part of the instrumentation, and, when done right mixes in perfectly with the other talented musicians, conjuring beautiful melodies with so many layers it would take a trained ear to decipher the origins of certain tones and nodes. Bigger and better horizons seem to be on the plate for “Lisa Savidge” with a tour underway. Don't miss this talented group from Phoenix, also this band might serve as a lesson for those music listeners who judge a book by its cover. For those of you expecting female foliskish tunes with sunflowers and tie-dye, well, it's your loss.
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Reviewer Bio - Tim Rosini is part of the editorial team at Onlinerock team. Having a background in English literature with a concentration in creative writing, Tim found himself working for various magazines and websites after moving out to the west coast last summer. Having the ability to adapt his focus from business writing to creative fiction he has found a great place to exercise his passion for music on the onlinerock website.