Review: Liz Cooper – Hot Sass (2021)


Liz Cooper is a Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter and musician who fronted Liz Cooper & The Stampede, a psychedelic folk/rock band from Nashville. Liz has a new album “Hot Sass” which marks multiple departures for her. Initially, from her nine-year home of Nashville and from her band The Stampede. After heavy touring in support of 2018’s “Window Flowers” album, she felt constricted by the Americana-adjacent associations that the Stampede carried. So, with her bandmates’ blessing, she dropped the name and is pursuing her own sound. Reflecting on the album, she shares, “It’s me learning about what kind of woman I am and it’s not pretty all the time… I’m still processing these songs. Still reflecting. And I think that’s the thing—Hot Sass is just a stamp in time of what was happening in my life. I just want to continue making art that displays myself, the moments, and the people around me.”

The album opens with `Slice of Life` a song that seems to have a touch of Americana blended with garage rock. Liz`s vocals have a delicious texture to them and are given a platform to shine with some interesting almost resonating guitar chords. A delightfully unnerving but nevertheless captivating listen. We have a stripped back but intensely enchanting offering with `Heart Shaped Candy` a strange piece that feels quite restrained but almost ready to be let off the leash.

`Motorcycle` has a slight disco or dance vibe to it. A wonderfully upbeat number that will have you swaying along to, it really took me off into another dimension for a little while. The singer has shared that `Hot Sass` “‘is a big fuck you to myself. It’s me looking within at the mess I’ve made and then picking up the pieces only to throw them all into my orange furry purse to savour for later. It’s my alter ego, the outcast and glue of the record. The sound of low lows and high highs and the stillness in between.”  It`s a track that continually veers from a laid back hypnotic texture one minute to thumping pounding all out in your face punk rock as it progresses, although there`s a midsection that seems to drift without direction. An oddly enthralling composition.

`Feeling Good` is a strange one which the singer has shared “s one of the first songs I wrote for this record. It’s the recognition of a deep and nagging existential sadness that’s nearly impossible to shake.” To me this number felt more introspective than melancholic. At over eight minutes in length `Lucky Charm` is a quite mesmerising track that spirals along until the singer joins in just before the midway point. The latter half seemed to gain speed with some resonating guitar riffs lurking in the ether and a swirling sounding synth. There`s an alluring charm to the last minute or so where the lyrics are partly spoken word.

`Getting Closer` was really enticing and was both written with and featured background vocals from Michael Nau. The musical backdrop was set perfectly for the charming vocals to glow. A constant bassline tapped drumbeat and synth swathes allow Liz`s distinctive vocals to soar in this quite dreamy tranquil piece. An intricately plucked guitar leads the quietly shared vocals into `Shoot The Moon` which gains a variety of sounds as it proceeds with shook tambourine, brushed cymbals, dreamy synth and clanging piano keys and a tacitly shared bass. A delightfully ethereal absorbing submission.      

`Fragile Lips` is wonderfully intense with soaring vocals in, around and above the softly shared guitar chords with piano keys joining. It takes a slight detour in the concluding part when it takes on a quietly abstract detached sort or aura or ambience. We have a more up-tempo quite retro garage rocky feel to `Je T’aime` where the vocals seem to grow in volume as the song evolves. 

`My Oh My` returns to a trippy, much more off beat innovating style with vocals almost floated above a trance like tone of musical endorsement. The album closes with `Smoke Break` a further atmospheric instrumental cluster of sounds.

I have to say I was really blown away with `Hot Sass`. It`s an intriguing, fascinating and at times spellbinding listen that really demands your attention. The singer has assembled collaborators and bandmates to flesh out her vision with Joe Bisirri (bass), Ryan Usher (drums, percussion) and Michael Libramento (guitar, synthesizer).

The artist has confessed that this album came from a person-embracing a newfound sense of independence, honesty, maturity and creativity and it`s hard to disagree with that.

If you enjoy artists that offer something different and demand a little more from a listener such as St Vincent, Grimes, Ariel Pink and Perfume Genius, you`ll love Liz Cooper.

Rating 9/10

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