Pillbox

Liz Berlin releases new album

When I first saw this red CD cover of a woman with an ?I know something you don?t know? look on her face, I was a bit skeptical. Adding to my skepticism was the title of the album, AudioBioGraphical, which suggested to me that this artist somehow thinks that she can enlighten the listener on whatever it is that this cover girl seems to know. The ?cover girl,? in this case, happens to be Liz Berlin ? a member of Pittsburgh?s very own rhythmic rock group, Rusted Root.

Berlin has been working on this album for the past five years, putting in time when she?s not touring with Rusted Root. Not only did she write all 10 songs on the album, she assisted in the engineering and production as well in her very own Mr. Small?s Funhouse Recording Studio. This album follows her 2004 release Liz Berlin ? Live, which was a culmination of live recordings of shows in Mr. Small?s Funhouse and Theatre dating back to 1999.

Liz Berlin?s band consists of Ford Thurston, Erik Cirelli, and Chris Lohr (The Yards) on electric guitars and Matt Vucic and Frank Marcello on drums. However, the key elements to the unique sound of the album are Megan Williams on violin and Weldon Anderson on upright bass.

Liz and her band paid attention to every detail of the album. She states on her blog: ?A good song takes a huge effort to get out of your mind, whether it?s the beat, the chorus hook or that crazy-ass sound that you can?t figure out what it is. The placement of every sound, the delivery of every line, every word, every syllable is important. It?s these things that keeps a song spinning around in your head for hours... or years.?

The album starts off with a jazzy tune called ?Love You,? which features Soma Mestizo?s Christianne Leach and Crisis Car?s Frank Spadafora. The guitar in this song resembles the soulful style of Santana, complete with distortion and edgy riffs. Although the album features Santana?s jazzy sound, it lacks the African and Middle Eastern influences of Rusted Root. It does, however, resemble some mellow Rusted Root tunes, such as ?Heaven.?

Several other songs, including ?Pretty Things,? ?Crazy,? and ?Ordinary Day,? have a ?90s art pop/rock style similar to those of artists like Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Aimee Mann and Suzanne Vega. The infusion of violin and upright bass into songs like ?Crazy? gives the album additional flare. There?s also a hint of folk (mainly evident in the lead guitar) in songs like ?Monster? and ?Picture.? Berlin?s influences include Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, and Bj?rk, which explains the limitless explorative nature of her album.

Berlin?s lyrics also possess a narrative and reflective theme. The stories in her songs have typical subjects such as love, sanity, and memories. Her lyrics include bitter lines like, ?Do you want to take me home and put me on a shelf?/Do you want to take me home and languish me like no one else can?? and insightful thoughts like, ?Maybe we should accept that crazy is our natural state.? She is also rather seductive at times: ?Just show me how to say I love you/I?ll show you how to say you love me too.? Throughout, Berlin?s lyrics become even more revealing and personal.

She closes the album on a harmonic note with ?Evening Prayer? from the Humperdinck opera Hansel and Gretel, which tests her vocal range and demonstrates her talent as a classical singer. Her innovative nature produces a unique experimental voice. She can start off a song in a sexy jazzy style and belt out a few high notes to spice it up. The result is an album that varies between sweet, serene tones to a catchy, funky, and sometimes harsh beat. The transition between these genres is a series of peaceful clashes, similar to the songs of bands like Garbage.

Liz?s career as a solo act actually started about ten years ago. She has performed many shows in the last 10 years, including the H.O.R.D.E. Festival in 1996, the 1997 Lilith Fair, and the Great Blue Heron Festival 2000 in Jamestown, NY. Her live performance is described as ?truly hypnotic.? She is also touring with a fellow Rusted Root member, Jenn Wertz. For more information about Liz?s endeavors check out her website, www.lizberlin.com; or check her out at www.myspace.com/lizberlin.

Pratima Neti
Junior Staffwriter