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Lisa Germano


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Alternative

Status:

Most recent album, Magic Neighbor (2009)

See also:

Lisa Germano's site

Lisa Germano's MySpace page

Wikipedia's entry on Lisa Germano

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for her collaboration with group members from Giant Sand as OP8.

Comparisons:

No direct comparisons whatsoever.... (afries@zip.com.au)

Lisa Germano's music and Susan Voelz's have very similar sound overall. (Neile)

The only artist to compare her to, even marginally, is Mary Margaret O'Hara, Queen of Quirk! (vickie@enteract.com)

Covers/own material:

Own, very occasional covers

General comments:

Intense, quirky, sometimes melodic, sometimes dissonant, confused and confusing—Lisa Germano's music is hard to describe and even harder to categorise. While editing this entry I pondered the question of what to write under "Ecto priority"...I love her stuff, but would I recommend her? Not without knowing a bit about the person I'd be recommending her to. More so than even with Tori Amos's Boys for Pele one needs to be in a right frame of mind to appreciate this music. Love it or hate it, but it's unlikely to leave you indifferent. I always say (about Happiness and Geek especially) that this is the music to cut the wrists by. Then again, I've played *a lot* of Germano over the years and haven't cut my wrists yet.... (afries@zip.com.au)

On The Way Down From The Moon Palace is a good album, but I prefer both the crunchy happiness and the intensely dark Geek The Girl. I guess the important point though is that Lisa has three [now four] really good albums out, and which one you like best will be completely a matter of personal taste. :) (mcurry@io.com)

I've tried to like Lisa Germano—and I actually can tolerate On the Way Down from the Moon Palace, which has a few songs I really like—in fact, of all the Germano CDs I've owned (I think three), it's the only one that didn't go back to the used store.
     I'd call her whiny. I admire that she creates really unique music and has a very personal and unique vision, but her voice grates on my nerves like you wouldn't believe. She is one of the few concerts I walked out on (I mainly went because Melissa Ferrick opened for her). I really tried to enjoy Lisa's show, but her voice just really turns me off.
     So, in summary, my take on Lisa Germano is, if you don't mind people who can't sing very well (such as Liz Phair on her first album), and you don't mind whining, you might like Lisa Germano. Her music is certainly original, and I have to admire her for definitely doing her own thing. I appreciate what she tries to do, and even some of her lyrics, but her voice just really really irritates me. Her dissonant music, along with her usually flat, lifeless singing style just doesn't appeal to me. I admire Lisa for getting out there, and doing her own "slash your wrists, the world sucks and love does too" kind of music, but it's just not something I can really get into. If you're put off by people who can't carry a tune, I don't recommend her. (jjhanson@att.net)

Well, I like Lisa Germano (kinda, sorta and sometimes), but she's an odd case for me that took a long time and the purchase of many Lisa Germano albums and a concert before she started to work for me. (You might ask why I kept buying them, but I couldn't really tell you.) Now I'm quite fond of her odd sound though. (neal)

I've spent a lot of time listening to Germano's first 4 albums, and find Happiness to be the only one that I never particularly want to hear. Geek the Girl and excerpts from the Love Circus are very different from both of the earlier albums, and still more angsty cynicism, but still wonderful.
     Of course, Lisa Germano is one of those artists for whom mileage varies stochastically.... ;-) (burka@jeffrey.net)

Lisa Germano tends to bring down the mood of things a little bit, but her music and voice are beautiful. Whispery and quiet stuff. (Riphug@aol.com)

Well, I also love Lisa Germano, but I think she's really weird! Of course, that's part of what I love about her! (colford@chlotrudis.org)

weird? whose calling Lisa Germano weird? i love Lisa Germano! she's not weird! well okay, maybe a little. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

A little Lisa Germano goes a long way, and I certainly understand why someone might find her whiny, particularly in her later work. But at least she doesn't take herself all that seriously, and she is utterly unique. Personally, I love her work. (Neile)

I just love her. She writes about very honest things...things so honest that I would be embarrassed to write a song about them. (adriftaway@yahoo.com)

Comments about live performance:

one of the best concerts of 1999 for me. she didn't play long enough as far as i'm concerned, but it was still a great performance. (sketches@earthlink.net)

I saw her tour with Melissa Ferrick when it played the old Birchmere. I had seen her before, at the old 9:30, and was mesmerized. This time, she wasn't quite as good, but I still enjoyed her set a great deal and was completely blown away by the instrumental "Simply Tony." I didn't yet have On the Way Down From the Moon Palace (actually, I think I bought it at that show) and was just amazed. (4/02, burka@jeffrey.net)

I've only seen Lisa Germano once, and I thought she was incredible. I had several Lisa Germano albums, but never really liked them. Prior to seeing her, she probably won the award for "artist who I don't particularly like but keep buying her CDs". I thought her set was spellbinding, and from that point on, her music has really worked for me.
     I remember saying something like "I was particularly struck with how she could make any piece, on any instrument, sound like it was playing on an old scratchy 78 sitting in a giant half-full bathtub". Which I guess was a compliment. (4/02, neal)

Recommended first album:

Geek the girl or happiness

Recordings:


on the way down from the Moon Palace

Release info:

1991—Major Bill Records—MB0191, 1993—Egg Records?; re-released 1999—Koch Records—7999 (As Moon Palace)

Availability:

Recently re-released, so should be easier to find

Ecto priority:

See general comments

Group members:

Lisa Germano—vocals, violin

Guest artists:

Kenny Aronoff—drums
Jeff Hedback—bass

Produced by:

Lisa Germano

Comments:

the first record blows 'em all away. i find Geek the girl to be too intense a listen to pull out often. happiness never really caught my attention too much (even the 4ad version), but on the way down from the moon palace is just magnificent! too bad it's nigh impossible to find anymore. (woj@smoe.org)

On the Way Down from the Moon Palace is acoustic, but in a down-home-Hoosier way, with great fiddle playing. Think angst-ridden, quaalude-dosed bitter young Carrie Newcomer. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Moon Palace is by far my favorite Lisa Germano album. Her other stuff just really hasn't done all that much for me...it's too morose, and there's not enough violin. I'm happy to see this has been rereleased! (meth@smoe.org)


happiness

Release info:

Original release:1993—Capitol—cdp 0777 7 98691 2 1
Re-release (in slightly different form): 1994—4AD—769 742 020-2

Availability:

4AD version is generally available, the Capitol one is out of print and quite rare

Ecto priority:

See general comments

Group members:

Lisa Germano—vocals, violin
Ronald Jones—drums
Daryl Johnson —bass, djembe
Bill Dillon—guitar, bass
Jay Joyce—keyboard, guitar, bass
Malcolm Burn—guitar, keyboard, tambourine, bass

Produced by:

Malcolm Burn

Comments:

This album is absolutely packed full of oddball, quirky hooks. (pmcohen@voicenet.com)

A bit more involved, and definitely more polished than her first album. I like this album quite a bit, and I'm not at all sorry I bought it, but I still think I like on the way down from the Moon Palace better. All the songs are good. Anyone who already likes Lisa's music will be happy with this one, and if you don't know Lisa, this is a great album to start with. Her vocals are still tentative and breathy. Many would say the vocals are quirky, as is the music and lyrics, but as it's quite natural it's very much a part of Lisa's charm. I highly recommend this album.( vickie@enteract.com)

i wanted to listen to this more carefully since i really couldn't recall having formed an opinion on it in the past. it's a bit weird to hear more production in lisa's work considering the roughness of the first record, but with her wistful singing and lyrics like, "you make me want to wear dresses," how can you go wrong? (woj@smoe.org)

Lisa's got a wispy, raspy voice. The remixed version of the original release has a lot of things thrown into the songs and is pretty crunchy in a haunting way. (paul2k@aol.com)

The two releases are actually quite different, and it is certainly worth buying both (granted, of course, that you like the first one) the 4AD version is a bit darker, with a lot of Treasure-era Cocteau Twins-style processing. it actually has the same number of tracks—it substitutes "sycophant" and "destroy the flower" for "these boots are made for walking" and "breathe across texas". the song order is also rearranged, and little snippets of sonic stuff are strewn about. i think that the 4AD release is stunning and her best recording. i note that there is some disagreement on the matter. (bossert@suddensound.com)

the 4-AD version is a desert island disc for me, for when i am depressed and want to wallow in that depression. I don't listen to this that much anymore, but i know i will want to someday...especially on a desert island, with no one around. or perhaps i shouldn't...it might get to be too much.... (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Lisa's voice works ok in counter-point with the layers of production, but her acoustic stuff doesn't move me. (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)

Happiness was initially released on Capitol Records, who had pushed for poppier mixes and production and then (surprise) failed to promote the album. Ivo Watts Russell at 4AD convinced Lisa (or maybe the other way 'round) to retool the album, and it was released on 4AD in its creepier, more atmospheric form. I actually like both versions. (jbehel@rush.edu)

At least on my version of this CD, the last track is "the darkest night of all". It wraps things up perfectly—how fitting this obsessive, depressing outpouring should end on a note of such gorgeous, hopeless sadness. (afries@zip.com.au)


Inconsiderate Bitch (EP)

Release info:

1994—4AD—TAD 4003 CD

Availability:

out of print

Ecto priority:

for the Lisa Germano fan

Comments:

Great remixes of "happiness," "energy," "puppet," "sycophant," and "(late night) dresses," released by 4AD as a promotional item for their version of happiness. (Neile)

Geek the Girl

Release info:

1994—4AD —7186

Availability:

indie stores

Ecto priority:

See general comments, another essential Lisa Germano record—if you like her.

Group members:

Lisa Germano—vocals, violin, guitars

Guest artists:

Kenny Aronoff—drums
Malcolm Burn—guitar, drums

Produced by:

Lisa Germano/Malcolm Burn

Comments:

I really liked geek the girl, and think it's a wonderful "concept" work. However, some of the "visualization" were quite intense for me, especially while listening to "...a psychopath". Yikes! (Matt.Bittner)

Great, totally individual style. I like it more every time I hear it. (Neile)

Wow...just wow. (mcurry@io.com)

The themes are great (meaning-wise) but not very catchy to me (music-wise). (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

many folks here will tell you to get happiness first, but while i agree that that's a terrific album, i think geek the girl is even better. (dmw@mwmw.com)

I liked it at first, but the more I played it, the more it wore on me. For me, it's great in theory, but falls flat in practice. :) (NyxNight@aol.com)

A Desert Island Disc. I couldn't decide between this and Happiness; I'd just close my eyes and pick one at random. (afries@zip.com.au)

a totally underappreciated album to be sure. (iflin@speakeasy.net)


excerpts from a Love Circus

Release info:

1996—4AD—9 46217-2

Availability:

indie stores

Ecto priority:

See general comments

Group members:

Lisa Germano

Produced by:

Lisa Germano/Paul Mahern

Comments:

What can I say, it's Lisa. When an album includes songs with titles like "I Love A Snot" and "We Suck", you *know* it has to be good. ;> In a nutshell, I'd say she's not going to win any new fans with this one, but she's not going to alienate any of her current ones, either. (meth@smoe.org)

i have to say that i am not as excited about this album as i thought i would be. too affected or something. maybe it is because i know the album is written about her break up with Malcolm Burn and that may be too much information for me to fully like the songs...i dunno. anyway i still like some of it. my favorite song on the album is the "I Love a Snot" song. it's so great! perhaps though i haven't been in the right mood for it. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Someone on Sycophant (Lisa's mailing list) described this album as being like Geek the girl but less upsetting, and that's a pretty good description. I like Geek the girl but I don't listen to it much because it's such a downer. excerpts from a Love Circus has more of a sense of humor to it, which makes it a more enjoyable listen. Simultaneously funny and miserable these songs entertainingly illuminate the paradoxes of love. Her sound hasn't changed much; if you liked earlier CDs you'll like this and if you don't know her I think this CD is a good place to start. (dbucak@netaxs.com)

Not as dark as Geek the girl, which means its easier to listen to on a regular basis. A wonderful blend of dark thoughts and Lisa's great sense of humor. (mcurry@io.com)

A little less depressed but just as geeky. Creative stuff. (Neile)

This is highly recommended, by the way. It is really sad and depressive but the story she tells throughout the album is so lively. Like Happiness she is back doing everything herself except for some of the tracks where she gets help from a couple of people. I just love the album!! (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

Excerpts from a Love Circus is a desert island disc for me. (bye@humnet.ucla.edu)

Slide or Excerpts from a Love Circus: Both albums have a haunting beauty to them and are made for melancholy days. (nnadel@hotmail.com)


slide

Release info:

1998—4AD—CAD 78014

Availability:

indie stores

Ecto priority:

See general comments

Group members:

Lisa Germano

Produced by:

Tchad Blake

Comments:

Seems a mellow and pensive album—more thoughtful than sad, and less dark than her previous albums. Favourite tracks are "Electrified" and "If I Think of Love". (Neile)

i always have trouble parsing her records as they are dense and it's difficult to distinguish the songs from each other. suffice to say that this one is no different from the others—a good thing in my book. yea, verily. (woj@smoe.org)

More mainstream than before, but still wonderfully bizarre. (rkonrad@ibm.net)

Kicks butt! I thought her previous one was a bit lacklustre, but she makes a great comeback with Slide. The arrangements are richer this time around, more musical, more flowing. Some new sounds I haven't heard from her before, and slightly lighter overall feeling. I really like this one! Perhaps not as amazing as Geek and Happiness, but way better than Love Circus...and that means it's pretty damn good. (afries@zip.com.au)

I was a bit disappointed by Excerpts from a Love Circus, Lisa's last effort, but I was not at all disappointed by this one. I'd rate this album as being second only to Geek the Girl, and since it's not quite as difficult to listen to as that album I find that it's in my CD player on a fairly regular basis. (mcurry@io.com)

I did find Slide a little disappointing. I don't know if it's because it's more commercial (commercial and Lisa Germano are two words that don't go together!) or just because it's lacking something, but she's still a fascinating artist. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

i think that Slide is pretty straightforward and accessible. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Slide or Excerpts from a Love Circus: Both albums have a haunting beauty to them and are made for melancholy days. (nnadel@hotmail.com)


lullaby for liquid pig

Release info:

2003—ineffable/iMUSIC—IMUCD117

Availability:

Indie stores and online

Ecto priority:

See general comments

Group members:

Lisa Germano—all vocals and instruments, except

Guest artists:

Sebastian Steinberg—bowed bass, bass
Butch—pedal steel, drums, whistles, belis
Johnny Marr—guitar
Jim Spencer—engineering
Joey Waronker—drums, gong, percussion, nervous shiver
Wendy Melvoin (Wendy and Lisa)—drums
Raymond Richards—pedal steel
Craig Ross—guitar
Neil Finn—optigon

Produced by:

Lisa Germano, Joey Waronker, and Jamie Candiloro

Comments:

To me, this is the sequal to Geek the girl...it's full of sarcasm and self-criticism, and deals with Lisa-familiar topics as relationships, alcohol, depression, and trusting the wrong people. Some of Lisa's best work can be found here, like ....to dream, liquid pig, from a shell and lullaby for liquid pig. (homebeforedark@yahoo.com)

After the accessible Slide, she slips back into a coma. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I like this even better than Kristin Hersh's The Grotto, which strives for a similair darkly confessional folk vibe. The sonic tricks and surprises are all-enveloping. Haunting and sad. (ethereal_lad@livejournal.com)

Very Lisa, nothing groundbreaking or radically different from anything she's done in the past. Faboo. (iflin@speakeasy.net)


In The Maybe World

Release info:

2006—Young God Records—YG32

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Lisa Germano—vocals, and all instruments except

Guest artists:

Sebastian Steinberg—string bass
Brady Michaels—guitar
Craig Ross—strange guitar sound
Johnny Marr—guitar
Joey Waronker—drums

Comments:

In cognitive therapy, the point is to defeat your bad core beliefs ("I'm too fat"; "I'm an annoying personality"; "I'm not worthy of love", etc.). Lisa Germano sets her bad core beliefs to music, singing them in a low, husky whisper-speak. It would almost be comical (and there's plenty of gallows humor in her lyrics) if she didn't construct interesting sound environments to put to confessionals to. That's right: I said "sound environments" and not songs, because that's what they are. They are formless, folk-flavored dreampop lullabies created with violins, music box figures and soft guitar feedback. It's music from a Mister Roger's Neighborhood where Meow Meow Kitty is anorexic and Lady Elaine is a repressed lesbian. In the Maybe World's juxtaposition of child-like music with adult subject matter can be mesmerizing, tedious or both. It is simultaneously pretensions and artless. Germano's music is an acquired taste, like haggis or scrapple. But once you have it, you can't get enough. Not recommended for those in an emotionally fragile state. (ethereal_lad@livejournal.com)

I've always been a stalwart supporter of Ms Germano, but this about does all good will in. A dreary, droning album, in which she can't even summon up the semblance of a recognisable tune and each song blurs wearily into another. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Further info:

She is featured on many other soundtracks and compilations, mostly new songs: on the soundtrack for Falling From Grace, she plays two self-penned instrumentals, one of which is "Little Children" (which is just about the same as the song "On the Way Down From The Moon Palace"); on the compilation Red Hot + Bothered one can find her brilliant "The Mirror Is Gone"; on the compilation Pet Sounds, her song "Starfish" is included; "Angels Turn To Devils" appears on the Anon AIDS benefit album by Castle von Buhler and she also appears on Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro the tribute to Laura Nyro. She does background vocals on Craig Ross's Dead Spy Report. On the Mitchell Froom album Dopamine she joins him on a little song called "Kitsum". She sings two songs on Yann Tiersen's L'Absente, and on Michael Brook's rockpaperscissors she contributed vocals to one track. She plays violin and other instruments on a slew of other people's albums, like eels, Sheryl Crow, David Bowie, Neil Finn, Indigo Girls, Ekova's Space lullabies and other fantasmagorie, etc. She produced and played on Denise Bonis' debut album. In 2002 she released home-made compilation CDs: Concentrated featuring her "better known" stuff, and Rare, Unusual or just Bad Songs, featuring B-sides, songs off soundtracks and outtakes. (Thanks to Wouter Reedijk for this additional info.)


Thanks to Andrew Fries and Wouter Reedijk for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2012-09-03 20:09:13.
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