Lissie set expectations for her first full-length record pretty high with her excellent Why You Runnin'? EP late last year.
Why You Runnin'? had more folk and Americana inspiration than rock and pop, but Catching a Tiger flips the ratio. Three outstanding songs from the EP - "Little Lovin'", "Everywhere I Go", and "Oh Mississippi" - make their way on the album, but those expecting the new tracks to follow suit may be quick to dismiss the new album when they hear the pop direction Lissie has taken.
If the listener can get rid of preconceptions (or if he or she had none to begin with), two things become clear: this woman can sing and she knows to write an infectious song. Her voice has power to spare with a playful edge that distinguishes her.
While nothing on the album surpasses the haunting, room-filling "Everywhere I Go", both "Bully" and "Record Collector" are exceptional examples of the type of songs Lissie is capable of writing.
Like many debut full-lengths, Catching a Tiger suffers from some pacing issues and could be more focused. The record makes some awkward jumps in style like when it goes from the grit of "Little Lovin'" (which should be the opening track) to the retro pop of "Stranger."
The low points come back-to-back on "Loosen the Knot" and "Cuckoo" with the former trending towards generic modern rock and the latter evoking shades of frivolous FM pop country.
Catching a Tiger gets it right, however, with the brilliant choice to end with the peaceful and relaxing "Oh Mississippi.” It's because of moments like this that Lissie's playful missteps can be forgiven.
Catching a Tiger will be released by Fat Possum Records on August 17.