5 Track, EP (2012, Warner Music)
Related: Lisa Mitchell.
It may seem at first unfair given how many young musicians come down the pike, but artists who mine a folkier, more personal vein, like Australian Idol-alumni turned Australian Music Prize-winner Lisa Mitchell, do tend to open themselves up to greater scrutiny. The payoff is that they’re more readily rewarded with touts of prodigal genius. Such lyric-driven, insular and hopeful music almost can’t help but assume an aim towards profundity regardless of its actual success. Mitchell’s debut LP Wonder was noteworthy in large part for its precociousness. By no means a perfect album, Mitchell was still lauded for her striving efforts and encouraged to hone her introspective powers by continuing to burrow more deeply.
Her long-awaited follow-up comes in the form of five-track EP Spiritus. It’s a record that simply shows who Mitchell is right now – an artist deeply invested in archetypes, one who doesn’t bother with the details of 21st-century life in her explorations of desire and loss. Certainly it’s a brave artistic approach, this notion of wrestling with only the most primal states of being and ignoring all the noise that make up the rest of our world. At the same time, such a large part of songwriting is making human connections, and often with Mitchell it’s not entirely clear whether these songs are springing forth from a 21-year-old indie folk chanteuse or some ethereal wandering spirit.
That’s not to say there aren’t some genuinely lovely tunes in the mix. ‘Diamond In The Rough’ captures Mitchell’s vocal chords in fine form, and closer ‘Parade Song’ is gloriously infectious. Yet her reliance on heavily symbolic language and seeming lack of interest in putting more of her personality into her compositions creates frustrating paradoxes: her music is intimate yet distant, earthy yet seemingly not of this earth. This is audible from the first organ notes and strums of the titular opener. It’s not an especially remarkable song, but it’s sharply arranged and beautifully played. The same can be said for the antebellum twirl of ‘I Am A Traveller’. Each composition is fleshed out as well as it can be, but the end result is still a kind of quirky, kind of folksy wallpaper.
by Jen Peterson-Ward