Top Ten of 2013: Lissie.

5. Lissie – Back to Forever

I don’t have anything against most pop music, but when it comes to my favorites, I like a bit more honesty. Building on folk and rock roots, Lissie isn’t afraid to take a bit of that pop in through her beats or keyboard embellishments while still staying true to her tequila-drinking, plaid-wearing, guitar-rocking self. Thank all of the gods you can name that there’s someone like her out there just being herself, as the song “Shameless” above so gracefully demonstrates.

Catching a Tiger, her debut album, came out when I was working for Nielsen writing trivia questions about British television ads. (Yes, I got paid for that.) At the time, Lissie was pretty big over there but not so popular here in her native land. Still, those thirty second clips were enough to inspire me to get into her music, and I’m glad I did. Back to Forever feels more cohesive and more about adult life than the nostalgia of her previous album. There are some real rock anthems (“I Don’t Wanna Go to Work” and “Cold Fish,” particularly), but there are also moments of extreme vulnerability. She’s a complex woman, and I think this album is a great demonstration of what that means in the modern age.

Also, on a purely personal level, I am so grateful for the song “Mountaintop Removal.” As a West Virginian by birth, I often feel that people ignore the problems in the state, particularly at the hands of the almighty mining industry. To hear an artist actually express concern in a song is incredible and moving. Rock on, Lissie.

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Fanifesto: let’s hear it for the ladies.

When I was growing up, female musicians seemed to fall into three categories: classic rock, country, or saccharine pop. I didn’t care much for the latter two, and for each spin of Heart, Fleetwood Mac, or Janis Joplin on the radio, you’d have seven songs by The Who alone. No offense to the guys, but sometimes you just want to be able to identify with the singer a bit more readily. I had enough issues growing up with a unisex name and getting confused for a guy by default. I wanted to know that women could have the gravity, honesty, and opportunity to take the spotlight. Fortunately I grew up, moved somewhere with better radio, and took advantage of the suggestions the Internet had to offer me along the way. Accordingly, on this International Women’s Day, I’d like to introduce you to ten ladies you may or may not already appreciate.

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