Lisel
Angels on the Slope


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
July 27th, 2019 | 103 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: don't delay, make waves

Angels on the Slope had an immediate and gratifying impact upon me that I don’t recall ever experiencing before in my life, save for perhaps the first time that Kid A caught my ear. I levy such hefty praise upon Lisel’s debut album because I truly believe it to be of a higher kind of music – an echelon reserved for the most brilliant, forward-thinking minds. The sounds that Eliza Bagg (Pavo Pavo vocalist and collaborator with the likes of Julianna Barwick and Tim Hecker) concocts are complex and geometric, but undeniably melodic in such a way that preserves the integrity of the music. What I mean by this is that artistry is more than just the application of intricate musical theories, or the haphazard juxtaposition of notes; it takes a keen ability to straddle the line between blazing a new frontier and writing something that somebody can actually sit down with, enjoy, and call music. This is where Bagg is at her best, crafting an elaborate and sophisticated piece that feels totally unique, but could also be qualified, digested, and enjoyed as indie-pop. It’s genius.

Lisel’s sonic intellectualism presents itself in a multifaceted way; it’s not all glitch beats and electronic demonry, although those things do still exist. Bagg is a skilled multi-instrumentalist, and it shows in spades with Angels’ burgeoning classical elements. The pristine pianos that cascade down ‘Bloodletting’s scenic mountainside intertwine with fluttering strings, sliding easily across its synthy, ambient gaze. Less subtly, saxophones come bursting into the foreground on ‘GENUiNE’, an intriguing fusion of baroque pop and jazz. However, if you asked Eliza about these songs, she’d still say that the primary classical instrument on display is her voice – which she insists is “the genesis of every song.” Those blueprints can certainly be heard here, as Angels on the Slope feels both guided and anchored by Bagg’s vocals, while all of the studio embellishments fall into place around her like electronic confetti gently raining from the sky.

This is hardly an obtuse coercion of discordant harmonies, the likes of which populate a large swath of what we consider to be “experimental” these days; it’s a series of beautiful melodies, accentuated by everything from the aforementioned classical inclusions to electronic/pop/rock aesthetics. ‘Digital Light Field’ for instance sounds warped – like dark matter reflecting, passing through a prism, and refracting. Limber synths contour around Bagg’s mathematical vocal chirps, contrasted by a straightforward indie-rock beat that even includes a few spare handclaps. Eliza doesn’t seem to fear obscurity or accessibility, indulging her whims wherever they happen to lead. Consider the straightforward, danceable beat of ‘Sun and the Swarm’, which glows with a retro synthetic tint that could easily soundtrack an 80’s-themed Stranger Things scene. Then there’s ‘Vanity’, which somehow manages to fit the bill as one of the weirdest sounding tracks on the record and one of its catchiest, occupying that center section of Angels on the Slope’s figurative Venn diagram. As is the case across much of the record, Bagg is able to maximize the best of both worlds with a combination of the tangible and the ethereal; in this case, a basic indie-pop beat that’s backlit by resplendent detuned guitar strums. I’d say it’s one hell of a balancing act, but nothing about the song – or this record – feels labored. It’s as if Lisel spontaneously germinated out of thin air to fill a need for daring, freeform compositions.

Angels on the Slope is one of the most enthralling and unique debut albums to come out in years. Bagg could have succumbed to the trap of middling indie-pop, opting to take this solo career in a more marketable direction, but she resisted. Lisel could have also easily been an outlet for her wildest, off-the-wall imaginings with little regard for tune or structure; it’s a lot of the former yet somehow none of the latter. Within the confines of merely one record, Angels feels like a comprehensive representation of everything that Eliza has to offer, a goal she actually aimed for herself, stating: “I wanted each song to be literally made out of me.” Lisel, as a project, seems to have already fulfilled her vision. It’s a bold venture into the unknown lights and shadows of experimental pop, a piece that immediately stamps Bagg’s name as the most innovative and promising artist to debut this year. As she sings on the fragile, gorgeous closer ‘This Time Tomorrow’: don't delay, make waves. This is a personal and professional tidal wave.



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user ratings (32)
Chart.
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Stream: https://www.stereogum.com/2052108/lisel-angels-on-the-slope/music/album-stream/

Bandcamp: https://lisel.bandcamp.com/album/angels-on-the-slope-2

"Bloodletting": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UERrv94Qq4Q

Digging: Off With Their Heads - Be Good

nightbringer
July 27th 2019


508 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The cover art was my original draw to this, knowing nothing about the artist beforehand.

dmathias52
July 27th 2019


729 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well dang! Been on a synth-poppy kick recently, so safe to say I’m absolutely pumped for this.

Digging: Tyler Childers - Country Squire

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This girl has just over 100 followers on Facebook. She definitely fits the bill as under the radar, even if she's worked with some high profile artists. I think Pitchfork woefully missed the mark (score: 68), so I'm all too happy to offer a counter to that review. The cover art is one of the most interesting ones I've seen this year, but I already had my sights set on this project before I saw the artwork. If you're going to hear one song from this, let it be 'Bloodletting' (linked in the first comment).

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2019


7866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Choooo chooo

Digging: We Are Only Human Once - The Prettiest Boys in Town

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

...and there's your validation so you know this is more than just another Sowing hype 5.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2019


7866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is like the best synth/dream pop album in years with the added bonus of serious songwriting depth and sophistication

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Agreed. Some of the stuff going on in these songs is mind-bogglingly good. And it's somehow still a breezy, enjoyable listen to boot. I really can't think of anything that's captured my attention this easily.

luci
July 27th 2019


11499 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"...and there's your validation so you know this is more than just another Sowing hype 5."



a Slex hype 4.5 is on the same tier lol

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Sounds to me like we need a luci 4.5 then! (or a luci hype 3, whatever equates lol)

luci
July 27th 2019


11499 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ngl your descriptions raise a lot of red flags for me. can anticipate viewing this as cluttered/haphazard, but I'll be glad to be wrong

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2019


7866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lmao I can’t even deny that yeah

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I'm interested to see what you think either way honestly. It struck me as your kind of thing although I could easily be wrong. It's a busy album as you implied, but I don't think it sacrifices any flow.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2019


7866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album breathes beautifully, I personally never got the impression otherwise

Gyromania
July 27th 2019


28202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ciphers didn't do much for me, hoping the rest is better

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I don't really picture this being your cup of tea, Gyro.

Gyromania
July 27th 2019


28202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i reallllllly do not get this. this whole thing sounds very generic to me. none of the tracks really stood out and i'm surprised by how homogeneous it sounded

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


31928 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I think compared to say, Holly Herndon or Sophie, this is incredibly diverse, melodic, and listenable. I know they're different styles of music so I apologize if that's a poor comparison, but in the busy/experimental arena, I rarely find stuff like this enjoyable unless the songs are distinctly identifiable, which in my opinion, this very much is.

Gyromania
July 27th 2019


28202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i think that compared to holly herndon or sophie this is aesthetically bare. i can see a comparison to herndon in particular, but one where all the nuance and diversity of her music would be completely stripped away with only her voice and the choral arrangements really remaining. hunker down, sun and swarm, and this time tomorrow were the only songs i really got into, which might warrant bumping this to a 3, but yeah idk man.

luci
July 27th 2019


11499 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

two songs in and this sounds a lot like new caroline polachek



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