Lisa/Liza is the recording project of Liza Victoria from Portland, Maine, who writes wonderfully minimal and psych-tinged songs that will doubtless appeal to fans of  soft and sad outsider folk artists such as Sarah Winchester. Deserts of Youth is the first official Lisa/Liza LP, following a succession of limited cassette and CD releases (one of which made our Free Music List in 2012).

From the opening track, ‘Century Woods’, we are introduced to the Lisa/Liza blueprint, what label Orindal Records describes as a “blend [of] psychedelia, Appalachian folk and dream pop”. All seven songs were recorded at home by Victoria, her complex poetry arising from a relatively simple set up, just straining finger-picked guitar and her gently wavering voice.

The album is deeply thematic, its subject inward-looking and reflective, although not necessarily in the way you may expect. Many artists regard the past as some trial that must be (or has been) overcome, the people we once were best forgotten, but with Desert of Youth, Victoria aims for something different. As she explains:

Deserts of Youth is an album about the parts of our past that remain within us, and visiting these landscapes with recognition of ourselves instead of a meditation on what has been lost, or is no longer a resource or a path we can use. It is about meeting the past and facing it with a sense of ownership instead of abandon; the idea that one can see a desert as a place of desolation or a place of needed reflection, full of life, and strength.”Lisa/Liza portraitSecond track, ‘Another Window’, has a similar effect, the acoustic guitar painting intricate patterns that are at times gnarled and thorny and others aloft and free, as if rising high on an updraft. Indeed many of the songs possess this sort of duality, at times gossamer thin with Victoria’s vocals little more than hushed murmurs, though even in these quiet moments her words hold a kind of understated magnetism, a power which draws in the instrumentation and in turn becomes augmented by it.

So, as the gentle pysch-folk guitars tumble around the lyrics, her words grow into incantations, conjuring images of deep woods or lonely desert plains, of that ancient magic in the order of things. This is mixed with sorcery of a much more familiar, everyday kind, such as that on the nostalgic ‘Lady Day’, where Victoria mixes the arcane with the mundane to find pockets of fascination. “I went to the part of the movie, I like the best,” she sings. “We rolled in at dark to the feeling / Lady Day on the radio.”

‘Wander’ marks the album’s halfway point and encapsulates the subtle intensity of the record as a whole, showing you don’t necessarily need to raise your voice to make a statement, that even quiet songs can be imbued with a blazing energy.

“It’s a holiday- to wander,
Sometimes we get in trouble,
Because we wander all the time.
I put off work, again, for tomorrow,
So we could chat about the garden,
And laugh about our stupid bosses.”

‘Red Pine’ is a lovely folk song, full of strange, sylvan imagery (“The red pine turns white / just as a blue spruce glows / in our living room”), while ‘Prospect Street’ explores the concept of finding ‘home’, both literally and figuratively. The title track then closes the album in beautiful fashion, its imagery at once bizarre and beguiling, dragging us from our hazy routine to kneel with Victoria and praise the wild around us.

“Waking up in meadows where
We were told to become
Deserts of Youth
And worship some young,
Teenage moon”

Deserts of Youth will be released via Orindal Records on the 9th September and you can snag your copy from their website.

Album artwork photography by Brian Doody