Liza Anne – Bad Vacation

St. Simons, Georgia singer, songwriter and occasional dance instructor Liza Anne can sometimes come across a little like Aimee Mann’s quirky niece – direct, sardonic, perceptive, probably prone to dysphoria and over-analyzation. Unlike Aimee, however, Liza Anne’s pointed finger is more likely to be directed inwardly rather than toward the latest perceived offender in her vicinity. Without succumbing to chronic self-absorption, she proves entirely relatable, honest, conflicted but determined.

Her stupendous fourth album, Bad Vacation, is a case study in growth, inner and outer, taking the baton of 2018’s Fine But Dying and exultantly sprinting with it through newly discovered spirals and bends. It’s a fun, bouncy record full of catchy, concise rock and nervy, new wave pop. The title of one of the standout songs, “Change My Mind,” might better articulate the overriding theme (especially when you think of it as a personal goal instead of an external challenge) but the title track, which springs forth with the delirious delight of freedom following an ill-advised dive into an unfulfilling relationship, more closely conveys the mood – especially when accompanied by its sassy, prancey, one-woman video.

Bad Vacation was largely written during a time when the 26-year-old, now based in Nashville, freely admits to being “a wreck… on a bender for emotional safety, not knowing that I could be my own healing space.” In the jumbled and jittery “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” she frets about running off all her friends, while in “Bummer Days” she longs to “get out of my own way.” With a voice suggesting a millennial Joni Mitchell, the light bulb that goes off in “Terrible Discovery” is that Lil’ Miss Elizabeth’s been her own worst enemy, so the assertive and driving “Devotion” that follows feels like a subsequent declaration of independence, as well as a renewal of vows to her wiser self, launched into the sonic cosmos aboard a mirrored missile of plastic-elastic glitter-rock. Meanwhile, “Desire” is a subtle slice of sober self-realization that lack of self-control leads to nothing but more debilitating hangovers: “I think I’m starting to feel it/ I’m only living when the sun goes down.”

Such confessional psychoanalysis may seem redundant for those of us old enough to have been derailed by our own ruts and ditches multiple times already, and heard such hurdles hashed out in song by so many. That’s valid to a point, but Liza Anne’s offbeat personality and candor lend her material a freshness that’s invigorating, and besides, how interesting are songs about a normal, calm, balanced, totally together life anyway? She has a unique vocal style, marked by little neurotic kinks that flare up sporadically, leaving you less than assured that she’s completely stable. It only occasionally gets irritating.

Were there any sort of significant alternative rock radio format anymore, or even influential college stations that haven’t been overtaken by public radio monoliths, these songs would be ricocheting off the summer clouds. I mean, there are still a handful of really good stations scattered hither and yon, and I hope they’re giving this album some attention. She deserves it.

Liza Anne
Bad Vacation
[Arts & Crafts]