Lisa Germano – Magic Neighbor

January 01, 1970

(Young God)


Since her 4AD days, Lisa Germano has set harrowing
narratives to beautiful melodies, most notoriously, perhaps, in Geek the Girl‘s “A Psychopath” with its
incorporated 9-1-1 call. For Magic Neighbor, her sixth solo album, Germano
again wraps disturbing imagery and disquieting epiphanies in velvety textures
of piano and violin. However, her subject here seems to be less one of romantic
suffering and more of escape through art. Germano has, perhaps, entered a stage
of life where interpersonal conflicts simmer, rather than erupting into
violence, where long-term lovers make a deal to ignore their relationship’s
worst aspects. Magic Neighbor is
about coming to terms with not-quite-satisfactory ever-afters, about leaving
mundane compromises through stories and imaginary painted doors.


You can hear the tension in the music, as well as the words,
as bits of orchestral fantasia introduce a flight to imagination. There’s a
syrup-y swoon of violin at the break in “To the Mighty One” just before Germano
begins to imagine a story where “I am in control today.” A fillip of flute and
violin waltz frippery marks the shift in “Simple” when Germano takes leave of
blues-strummed realism and begins to consider what would happen “If I ran away.”
“Oh tell me a story,” she insists in her shrouded whisper, at the beginning of
“The Prince of Piati,” as if happier, simpler narratives were just a once upon
a time away. And the people she values the highest take her entirely out of the
mundane world, into a fantastic place where anything can happen, even
happiness. “He must be a god/He can turn cats into furniture,” she remarks in
“Magic Neighbor”. The real world is of limited interest here.


As in past recordings, Germano’s voice is a clear, quiet
luxury, breathy and private, untouched by vibrato. Her playing – on piano,
violin and guitar – fills in the melodies beautifully, often working in slight
syncopation to the lyrics or fading to barely perceptible volume under her
voice. Songs flow smoothly, eddies of fiddle swirling around occasional bumps
and pauses in the melodic line but mostly full of cool, liquid clarity. Little
tempest of noise and distortion sometimes pass over the surface (listen
especially to “A Million Times”), but leave these songs as unmarked and pure as

Moreover, there’s a serenity to this album that seems to
mark an end to long suffering. Germano has always been engaged in overcoming
fear and hurt through musical beauty. With Magic
she seems, finally, to have found the escape hatch.


 Standout Tracks: “Magic Neighbor” “A


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