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candicenorwood's Photo I'm a volunteer KDHX music writer and also a sophomore majoring in News-Editorial Journalism at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. You'll find more of my music writing in the pages of campus magazine buzz.

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Album review: Lissie tames the pop tiger on her full-length debut

Lissie - Catching a Tiger

Catching a Tiger
Fat Possum, 2010

Lissie is no country sweetheart. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Rock Island, Ill. native gained recognition with her rustic, yet beautifully serene voice that put an unusual spin on a number of covers from Lady Gaga, Kid Cudi and Metallica. Her debut album, Catching a Tiger, however, offers an interesting mixture of less immediately commercial tunes.

Elisabeth “Lissie” Maurus was musically inspired by her grandfather, a former international barbershop quartet champion. Despite defiant behavior that resulted in expulsion from high school, Lissie’s hard work and musical talent gained her fans such as Lenny Kravitz and DJ Morgan Page.

She later released two EPs, before debuting Tiger this August. The album demonstrates Lissie’s organic talent; however, it tends to swing from one genre to another, and often plays it safe and traditional.

Many of the songs on Tiger are calm numbers that highlight acoustic-guitar-based folk music. One such track, “Record Collector,” contains some unusual but appealing instrumentation. As Lissie lightly yodels and belts out the thoughtful lyrics, her voice elicits chills, striking to the core.

The guitars turn more electric on songs like “In Sleep,” bringing a bluesy edge to this track detailing the end of a relationship.

Towards the middle, the album unexpectedly takes on a poppy, radio-friendly sound. The song “Cuckoo” is a soft rock tune with a summery “Let’s hit the town” feel. The musicianship doesn’t diminish with the pop moves, but Lissie is at her best with the slower, raw music that showcases her vocal chops.

Lissie ends Tiger with “Oh Mississippi,” a country-inspired piano ballad paying homage to the great river bordering her hometown. Though it’s a solid closer, “Oh Mississippi” keeps to the straight and narrow and offers little innovation. But taken as a whole, Catching a Tiger is a notable debut from a young, laid-back rebel with a powerful voice and an eclectic musical vision.