LIZZIE REID is a Glaswegian singer-songwriter with an unflinching eye for detailing the rawer side of our emotional lives; like a few, but all too few others perhaps, operating in the acoustic first-person, when she sings it, you really know she’s been there and felt it, tasted the tears and the blood of it.
She’s signed for Essex indie Seven Four Seven Six and in doing so brings a whole new set of initials to a label that’s also home to fellow rising talents Matilda Mann and Matt Maltese; and, after a clutch of single drops, she’s here with her first EP proper, full of candour and tales of life falling in and out of bars and flats and love in her home city, Glasgow.
She’s drawn comparison with some of the top names in female confessional discourse, such as Sharon Van Etten, Polly Jean; I might add the Shelby Lynne of I Am Shelby Lynne, bruised, defiant. Beginning to ride a buzz in Scotland, she’s supported The Staves and Nilüfer Yanya and was making her first acquaintance with 2020 summer festivals bills before … you know the rest.
Cubicle was recorded in March last year, just days before lockdown one bit. With the daily figures mounting, producer Oli Barton-Wood packed a case of microphones, leads and equipment and travelled to Lizzie in Glasgow to lay down the tracks.
“It is really important to me that I got to make something with people I care about and that we created something amazing and genuine,” Lizzie says.
Cubicle is diaristic, in that the six tracks reflect on a formative summer which saw the end of Reid’s first same-sex relationship, and explore her identity as a queer woman.
“Tribute” is a playful prelude, all 117 seconds of its stream-of-consciousness artful in its lo-fi presentation and delivery; she brushes her curls from eyes and confesses: “And I don’t regret a word that said when I was in your bed … and I don’t really mind that our time is done and dusted.” It says: here I am. I’m here to sing and tell you, now. Hear how she holds the purity of tone on those humming notes.
The second track, “Seamless”, well; hang on to your emotional hats. It’s raw, in the sense there’s little artifice in her communication of that sore heart she has; it’s an artful raking of the ashes of lost love. A funereal 6/8, she lets it ring in slowly on fragile caresses of the guitar – so you’re in no doubt of the mood being set.
“I still have your clothes / I’ll be wearing your jumpers,” she sings, her voice a beguiling, cracking thing. You can hear she’s feeling this; feeling this hard. Indeed, listening back to an early version moved Lizzie to the catharsis of tears, she recalls: “I listened to the demo on the train from London to Glasgow. I had tears streaming down my face. That was when I realised I had written something deeply personal to me.” Even better, we’ve embedded it down below, just beyond the kickers to Lizzie’s socials. Dive in.
There’s melodic release in that end of the verse, when she coos wordlessly; it’s not the blackest black, because this sort of razor cut is always, always looking back at the salty rub of a brighter light past. Outside the curtains, right at the end, you can the world of the still whole-hearted going about its business.
“Always Lovely” is recorded right up close, breathy like a lover’s whisper; it reminds me of the dynamic of Cian Marshall’s Cat Power, mid-period. “An open book to be read at least twice a day,” she hushes right beside you. It’s a languid confessional in the second person, every honeyed grain of Lizzie’s voice, every squeak of those strings, falling into your ears with beautifully captured fidelity.
Lizzie recounts: “This song is about insecurity. Feeling like you’re not quite up to it. It’s about obsessing with the idea of perfection and worth – whether that be about your physical appearance, your personality or social identity.” You can see the PJ referencing in those bluesy chords, never quite resolving to major or minor, skeletal and stark.
“Company Car” is a lovely jazz swing, brings to mind no less than a female M. Ward in its easy timelessness and longwave-friendly reverb. It’s warm and carefree; you can tell it was written in a time of exaltation. Lizzie rejoices in telling her lover that there’s a (metaphorical) company car here for her; swoonsome.
“Been Thinking About You” stays in a pretty and delicate jazz mode, stop-starting with a Britsoul insouciance in its investigations of how to love; it could don a diamante gown and a string section and sweep a board or two. Not that it needs to, of course. But it aims, and bullseyes, a post-Amy grace and ease. It’s got swagger, a little spontaneous chuckle, squeals and screams as she ‘goes electric’ and lets the song rip.
“This is almost an appreciation song for a friend of mine,” she says. “He was such a support for me at a time I wasn’t feeling my best. I was going through quite a confusing time and felt guilty that I couldn’t support him in the same way he supported me.”
“Cubicle” signs off on Lizzie’s first half-dozen song transmission back on the adjoining pillow, starting in tape hiss, resolves some of the pain of the EP so far in that colder, detached fact: “I don’t even know you anymore … there’s something kinda sweet about being strangers again”. A new girl has told Lizzie she’s beautiful, and you know what? It’s time to turn now with maybe just one last solitary tear; which she does in a detonation of Americana guitar and la-la-las. Head high, so much now to see.
It’s the easiest thing in the musical world to pick up an acoustic, buy a Moleskine, start lyricising about how your own life is going; what’s an awful lot harder is to walk that line between navel-gazing and communication, between indulgence and universal truths. And to do that with easy vocal beauty and a nose for a tune; there aren’t many capable, and Lizzie is one. She shapes the world into song with melody and a bright touch.
Lizzie: welcome. Where ya been?