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The daughter of one of the most influential and idolised singers in history has always been unfairly bestowed with the crushing weight of unrealistic expectations. Lisa Marie Presley carved a niche as an angry alternative pop-rockstar in the last decade, with her 'To Whom it May Concern' and 'Now What' albums, where her bitterly honest and self-reflective lyrics won me over as a fan. However, after six years of both figurative and literal radio-silence, Lisa Marie is back. 'Storm & Grace' is a significant departure, musically, from its predecessors. Lisa seems less angry and confrontational in her lyrics, but most notably, has embraced her country and southern rock roots. The downbeat, folky sound of the album fits her smoky voice perfectly, and matches her calmer demeanour as she addresses the angels and demons in her life. There is something so compelling in her lyrics, that despite her less-than-ordinary life, Lisa's lyrics are so relatable to me.
The album title is clever in the sense, that it reflects the light and dark themes running through the album - with some of the darker tracks providing some intense and highly-compelling storytelling. One of the stand-out tracks comes in the form of 'Storm of Nails', a clattering, slow-building track that deals with being overwhelmed by a series of bad events. "And on the forecast for today, a storm of nails heading your way" she sings, before questioning "on my forehead does it say, unleash all the hounds of hell this way?". The song is very melodic and easy to sing along to, and is one of the most instant tracks on an album, which is deliberately not as radio-friendly as its predecessors. 'Un-break' is similarly, another of the few more uptempo tracks that could be played on the radio. It shows that Lisa still has some of the anger which characterised her previous records, as she opens the track pondering "Sometimes I wonder what the hell I ever did to deserve this". The dark, atmospheric soft-rock track deals with the trappings of fame, and all the metaphorical vampires it attracts. "I got run over my own parade, I've suffocated in these beds I've made" she muses in the chorus, weary of manipulation. Somehow she manages to make the plight of the famous incredibly relatable with her clever lyrics.
There is something mischievous and rebellious about Lisa Marie Presley, and this certainly can be seen in a lot of the tracks here. 'Over Me' is a bluesy, southern-rock track with a singalong chorus, which Lisa delivers with intentional melodrama. The lyrics are particularly interesting given that are seemingly pointed at Debbie Rowe - the woman who fell pregnant with Michael Jackson's child just months after their divorce. 'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet' is the first single from the album, and has such a great bass-heavy guitar line. The shuffling rhythm of the track embodies the sound that Lisa was going for with the album. The lyrics are very tongue-in-cheek, and clearly are her laughing defiantly at people's attitudes towards her. There's something addictive in the melody, and it quickly became one of my favourites on the set.
The album shows a softer, more melancholic side to the star which stands in stark contrast to her previous material. The production on 'Forgiving' gives me chills, the quiet banjo line alongside Lisa's emotional vocals show a more vulnerable side to her, that as a huge fan, is endearing to her. "I want to find in me that I can still believe, and be forgiving" she sings with a beautiful tone to her voice, its such a hopeful track, that shows her moving away from the bitterness of her past two records. 'Soften the Blows' and 'Storm and Grace' are seemingly two parts of the same song, and deal with finding someone who can be your shelter in hard-times. Both songs are quiet and sparsely produced, allowing for the sweet, almost poetic lyrics to shine. They are really therapeutic and relaxing to listen to, and may not be instantly memorable, but possess enough charm for you to come back for repeated listens.
'Storm & Grace' comes in two versions - a standard and deluxe album. As a huge fan, naturally I went for the edition with four extra tracks. Without a doubt, these four additional songs should have made the standard edition. 'Sticks and Stones' may be one of my all-time Lisa Marie Presley tracks. She has been belittled and mocked repeatedly by the media, and this song so eloquently explores how she feels about such treatment. "Too bad she ain't just like her Daddy, oh what a shame/She ain't got no talent of her own, it's just a name" she sings on the verses, before an emotional chorus with an uplifting melody, where she concludes "you can take my place, you'd do it better anyway/But you'd better hide your bones, from all the sticks and stones."
However, the real gem in this album is the emotional 'I Was Wrong', a quiet track with slowly building drums. The lyrics are simple, yet absolutely devastating. They were written in the aftermath of the death of her ex-husband, Michael Jackson, and essentially tells a tragic tale of regret and unspoken words. "I always thought that he never loved me, that he didn't love me at all - I was wrong" she sings. My heart breaks in the final chorus, as she concludes "He was wrong - I loved him all along. I love him now he's gone."
The album succeeds in transforming Lisa Marie Presley from an Alanis Morissette-esque angry pop-rock artist, into a bluesy, more authentic artist. The songs are far from radio-friendly, but somehow I just keep returning to them over and over again - there is such charm in the understated production and her self-reflective lyrics. This is a fantastic record to challenge the naysayers who claim she has no real talent, but above all else, and aside from a personal victory, it is a victory for all lovers of southern-rock, country and folk, as she blends all three seamlessly into a rich and diverse third album. Without a doubt, one of my favourite CDs of the year.
Highlights: Over Me, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, Un-break, Storm of Nails, How Do You Fly this Plane?, Forgiving, Sticks and Stones, I Was Wrong.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Over Me
2 You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
4 Close To The Edge
5 So Long
6 Un - Break
7 Soften The Blows
8 Storm Of Nails
9 How Do You Fly This Plane?
11 Storm & Grace
13 Sticks And Stones
14 I Was Wrong
15 Just A Dream