Lisa Papineau transcends any preconceived notion of her music by offering an intensely warm, poetic, mature album with Oh Dead on Oh Love.
Hey, reader. Let me level with you here. I’m not a big pop guy. My experience with the genre as a whole is with more niche artists that still fly a relatively straight path like Empress Of (who I love), or those of the synthy variety. I definitely like the idea of pop, and think there’s a ton of variance and artistry in the genre like with all other music. Just find what you like! Well, I’m glad to say I can add another artist to that list, and that’s Lisa Papineau. The singer-songwriter comes from the artsy side of the pop sound, and what she and her collaborators end up building with Oh Dead on Oh Love is a masterful, expressive work of art informed by what feels like over a combined couple centuries worth of experience in writing and performing.
To call this music just pop is pretty disingenuous and why I think strict adherence to genre is silly overall. There’s a thrilling scope to Oh Dead on Oh Love that encompasses notes of jazz and the intimacy of indie folk. Regardless of genre, since Papineau‘s modus operandi is just making you feel, it doesn’t matter what medium is used. Even for the pop agnostic, this surely should stir you to your core. It has a calculated maturity that I haven’t heard from a musician in quite a while (more a fault of my own than the music I frequent).
Oh Dead on Oh Love is like witnessing what happens when elder statespeople of music gather and just knock out biting, emotive music effortlessly. Not to speak lightly of the grueling work that making music is, especially if the story behind “Beautiful” is taken into account, but it all seems to be second nature for Papineau and company. The bounciness of “Hey Lord Take Me Over” comes just as easy as the deeply personal tone of “Little Hell” and its stumbling vocals. A lot of this is due to Papineau herself, who wields a piercing, breathy cadence that’s steely and hypnotic. Listening to her sing is like hearing the deepest secrets of someone you’ve spent much of your life with; it is as comforting as it is surprising.
If this all seems a little… much for you, the album’s title track would likely be a great entry point. It’s satin soft, but has a captivating energy driven by glittery guitars, sustained bass notes, and a minimal ‘thud, tap, thud-tap’ keeping rhythm. It’s delightfully ‘indie’, and those hip to what that term even entails sonically should know what I mean by that. “Beautiful” would likely be a nice second stop. With its jazzy accouterments courtesy of a melodic trumpet and understated bass, Portuguese verse, and imagery-intensive hook (‘You wanted it so beautiful/Broken glass to cut the sky in half‘), it’s a standout track.
This album is at its most intimate to me with “Endless Story”. Wow, this song. Papineau‘s voice is front and center, supported by Matthew Embree on the hook, and a myriad of instruments throughout including a bass, mellotron, cuica, and other percussion. It’s a slow, haunting affair that sounds like an in-progress seance with thunderous drums and distant noises surrounding you. Still, it’s a warm feeling you’re left with, as if it was recorded or sung to you while next to a towering campfire. I’d be remiss for not shouting out “The Last City”. Equally haunting with ghostly vocals and a foggy atmosphere about it. The subdued yet bright piano in it offers a guiding light as you navigate its lush soundscape, sunbeams poking through the haze.
That’s kind of where a lot of the intimacy comes from in Oh Dead on Oh Love; it’s capable of making you feel at home as well as transporting you to places that don’t feel threatening or malevolent, just wholly different from your normal. Music that can do that is master wizard levels of magical. I always look for experiences like that when listening to music, and this record offers just the right amount of whimsy while staying grounded enough to mirror a viscerally human experience. In short: it’s amazing, and dare I say flawless.
Lisa Papineau touts a deftly intimate experience that feels so profoundly human, it inhabits your deepest depths. As poetic as it is raw, it’s liable to make your hair raise and chill your bones repeatedly. Oh Dead on Oh Love is the result of a harrowed, experienced life, but, most importantly, it’s one of survival and persistence. If you appreciate how the human experience informs art, and perhaps the inverse, you need to listen to this album because it will no doubt prove to be filled with highly captivating moments for you.