There’s been some sort of chasm between Lisa Mitchell and me. Ever since she popped her sweet, swoony self onto my pre-plasma television back in 2006 as the little girl from Albury, I’ve been lusting for some cropped and bleached out, high-waisted leather pants wearing boy to blow up the indie-folk scene, if only to shatter the linear narrative of this stationary music tradition.
As much as I love folk, and the liberty that exists within it, Mitchell, with her gangly, awkward mannerisms, never really managed to romanticise her words fully for me. She was always a cardboard cut-out of the typical progressive folk artist; her resident eclectic-ness eternally dismantled by her lack of confidence. But, I finally stopped holding out after hearing Mitchell’s latest album Wonder, and at the same time felt that canyon between us instantly filled with awe and tenderness.
It seems Mitchell has found that perfect nook in which to write her music, that deep couch in the sun room, the groove in the oak tree, or maybe just that book store/café/open cinema hybrid. Wherever it is, it is utterly inspiring and powerful. It’s definitely a place of her own and she should make sure it stays that way.
Of course, there is the obvious folksy quavering percussion, intrinsic acoustics, human instrumentals (whistling, humming) and vital piano rhythms that navigate through Mitchell’s signature breathy tones, all produced to perfection, but there is also something different here. With what has been described as ‘an entire album of hit singles’ Mitchell offers up a platter of diverse spirits, from the sombre devoutness of ‘Pirouette’, to the idealistic reverie of ‘Red Wine Lips’ and blissfully into the brief frivolity of her moniker, ‘Coin Laundry’.
The whole album is a bustling domain of liberation, with every song a viewing point into a varied secular existence. Mitchell’s lyrics are so internally extroverted you almost feel she has found the key to a exclusively separate world. This album is certainly a coming of age for her as she talks of “taking off her blouse” in ‘Love Letter’ and spins peripheral metaphors about the clouds and sun in ‘Oh Hark’.
I’ll admit I first started to crumble for Mitchell when I saw the film clip for Oh Hark, where Mitchell, dressed in black fringe, evokes a calmer shade of Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac’s live version of ‘Rhiannon’, with all the same lines of free-spiritedness and spontaneity as they both jump about the room.
And from there I am still crumbling. Lisa Mitchell has finally made me fall in love with her. Wonder is not impressionistic or indistinct like so much indie- folk. Then again, it is not musically avant-garde or inimitable, but it is soothing, it’s moving, it makes you feel and sway in cadence. It makes you yearn for nothing much in particular but more. It makes you hurt for something you don’t know you’re hurting for. It makes you happy, just because you are.
With that, I would put Wonder, and Lisa Mitchell, somewhere around amazing.