by Dylan Pennell (@dylan_pennell)
Like barren woods still smoldering after a fire, Lisa/Liza’s latest release Momentary Glance serves as a hallowed memory of the fecundity of life and the destructive forces that just as readily extirpate what we hold dear. The recording project of Portland, Maine’s very own Liza Victoria has long stewed in the aural mire of loss and desperation. With her latest release, reportedly a creation of what Victoria herself calls “the most difficult time of my life to date,” the singer’s voice, barely rising above the black-metal esque swirls of bleak ambience, serves as both a beacon of hope and a metonymic evocation of the loss at the heart of the record.
Lisa/Liza has always sought to find the quiet places in what was already desolate music, but Momentary Glance serves to curl up into a ball at every chance, receding into the profound heartbreak of loss without ever romanticizing it. Rather Victoria bears her sadness for all to witness, and when the wound feels like it couldn’t be any more open, she cracks open a box of Morton’s salt and liberally dumps it. Opener “Real Estate” finds the singer fleeing the world at large and getting out of town, heading “to Candy Mountain to figure some shit out,” the pain in her breathy croon obscuring her lyrics almost before they leave her lips. Follow-up “The Matador” offers no respite as Victoria, blindsided by her own hideous grief, struggles to notice the beauty natural world in the face of both physical and existential violence.
And therein lies the central conflict of Momentary Glance for both the author and the listener. Often times, like Victoria, we are simultaneously compelled at the level of gloom unfurling in each track and forced to seek our own solace from the black hole at the center of this odyssey. Each track’s oppressive ambiance nearly tips the scales in forcing the listener to confront the complexities of loss and the insidious way it can come to mold every facet of our lives. Which is why the lullaby-like melodies of “Little Bird,” though hardly sweet, feel like a buoy post-capsizing. Once again, mirroring the melodic deliverance is the singer herself, once again escaping into the natural world to suture her freshly salted wounds.
Somehow, despite the reoccurring salvation of the natural world, even the album art, bedecked with colorful illustrations of the familiar sundry ephemera of the great outdoors, suggests that though forgiving, ”always wears the colors of the spirit,” as our boy Ralphie Emerson once said. Each plant cloyingly animated with the same affect prevalent in only the cutest of stationery stores takes on a new life after listening to the album. What first feels like an invitation to a coffee-shop-ready album of tasteful alternative folk quickly morphs into a bleak objective correlative, each plant looking entirely alone, unable to be part of the greater ecosystem, despite its proximity to others that with shared needs and desires. Like Victoria herself, even when surrounding herself with black pines or sojourning to Candy Mountain, can’t help but feel utterly alone.
Luckily for Lisa/Liza, this album unknowingly rides in on a wave of zeitgeist, resulting from the similarly bleak broadcasts of Angel Olsen and more recently Adrianne Lenker. So even if the trees have all burned down, and the sun can only weakly break through the hardened wisps of smoke still hanging close to the treetops, we all know that after a little time, life will inevitably begin to break through the ashen forest floor. And just like that inevitable bloom, Momentary Glance will serve to embolden Lisa/Liza’s career and continue to bolster the increasingly impressive litany of albums dedicated to the barren, the bold, and the heartbroken.