Without much fuss, Elisabeth Corrin Maurus has quietly become one of the most vital vocalists around. She’s in possession of a voice that skips between howling raw emotion and husky confession, an instrument that’s as powerful turned down as it is when the volume is pumped up to a hefty 11. It’s this voice which powers ‘Castles’, the Illinois singer-songwriter’s dreamy fourth album, coming after 2016’s ‘My Wild West’ – as heard and seen on last year’s Twin Peaks reboot, thanks to David Lynch’s longstanding infatuation with the artist.
Despite the link to Lynch’s weird world, ‘Castles’ is much more pop-leaning than that association might suggest. Building from an acoustic base – and the rain-splattered opening ballad ‘World Away’ – she weaves in sparkling, electronic production and heavily layered vocals to produce something bordering on the symphonic.
Artfully curated references see her picking and choosing from the best; the falsetto-led ‘Crazy Girl’ grooves in the same fashion as mid-1990s TLC, while the bare-bones passion of ‘Blood & Muscle’ gets her belting out her demons against stripped-down piano, making you think of Florence and the Machine as well as the kind of brutal break-up that can only be tended to with early Bon Iver records and lots of Malbec. More up-tempo is ‘Best Days’, a propulsive pep-talk in the form of a 1990s Sheryl Crow meets Shania Twain-style guitar country-rocker, while the hypnotic ‘Boyfriend’ could be a long lost off-cut from Fleetwood Mac’s 1980s classic ‘Tango In The Night’.
It’s not just here that the shadow of Stevie Nicks looms large. Lissie’s vocal similarity to the cape-twirling high priestess of AOR is impossible to ignore, especially on the wilfully spooky ‘Meet Me In The Mystery’. Talent borrows, but evidently genius Nicks.