It is rare that I find myself stumbling upon so-called “Indie” music. Well, that is, before it’s two years old and reached the top of the iTunes Top 10 List, which, as Indie snobs have told me, is an embarrassing place to buy music. Whoopsies. Apparently, to be a true connoisseur of trendy music, one must scavenge through dusty vinyl records and unreleased CDs in the basement of a dimly-lit Soho store where skinny jeans and a judgmental expression are prerequisites for entering. My recent encounter with underground music, however, did not require me to squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans, fortunately, for my thighs. The source of my discovery was, of all people, my father. While most teenagers tend to rebel against the music of their parents, I seem to gravitate toward it. So when my dad suggested that I listen to Lissie Maurus, a new female vocalist, I immediately downloaded her debut EP, “Why You Runnin.” After listening to the five-song EP, one has trouble pinpointing its style. Even iTunes was undecided, putting it under the vague genre of “Singer/Songwriter.” I think it’s best to take each song as its own unit. Lissie begins her album with “Little Lovin,” at first a gentle, folksy pop ditty accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The song gains momentum as it progresses, with the addition of handclapping, drums, and, most noticeably, the first instance of Lissie’s unique vocal dexterity. For the second half of the song, she wails the line “way-oh-aw-aw,” which might seem boring for two minutes on end. To the contrary, Lissie’s impressive, impassioned, and personal howls are most charming indeed. “Wedding Bells” is a well-disguised, modernized version of the 1949 blues ballad by Hank William of the same name. Despite its corny lyrics hailing from a different era (“While the organ plays ‘I Love You Truly,’/Please let me pretend that it’s me there.”), Lissie once again evokes a likable earnestness, an honesty in her sound that makes one believe she has been ditched at the altar. The EP’s highlight is undoubtedly “Oh Mississippi,” a slow, heartfelt ode to the Mississippi River. Lissie, a native of Rock Island, Illinois, sings a stunning gospel-like hymn to the “endless river” she grew up living next to. “Your turbulent waters lulled me to sleep,” she sings. Indeed, the lyrics are far more sincere. The song ends with a lovely line about riding the river to “the promise land.” In the end, regardless of lyrical qualms, melodic merit, or song length, the real gift in this EP is listening to Lissie’s gorgeous voice, at once youthful and mature, soft-spoken and roaring, and altogether a delight.
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