Lisa Germano

In the Maybe World

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It's hard to imagine a more perfect home for Lisa Germano's delicately challenging music than the Young God label. True, the ethereal sound of Geek the Girl and Excerpts from a Love Circus made her a pretty good fit for 4AD's roster, but the unflinching, often disturbing honesty of her work -- and her equally unflinching commitment to it -- is much closer to the outlook of Michael Gira and the other artists he supports. As always, In the Maybe World pairs warm, enveloping sonics with Germano's gently troubling way of questioning why things are the way they are. And, as always, In the Maybe World rewards close listening and the time spent with it. Germano's previous album, Lullaby for Liquid Pig, was an exploration of -- and a kiss-off to -- addictions, particularly alcohol. This time, she examines death in its various forms, whether it's the end of a life, a relationship, or an idea. Germano is such an intimate, vulnerable-sounding artist that it's easy to assume that music isn't just her life, but her life is her music. In the Maybe World ranges from clearly personal songs like the candle-lit "Golden Cities," which deals with the death of her cat Miamo-Tutti, whom she immortalized on several songs throughout her career (and because she's such an intimate artist, knowing that Miamo-Tutti is dead will no doubt sadden longtime fans), to the Jeff Buckley tribute "Except for the Ghosts," which she handles just as sensitively as her autobiographical songs. Distance and absence are the subjects of two of In the Maybe World's most quintessentially Lisa Germano songs: "Too Much Space," a sketch of loneliness that's even sadder because it's so matter of fact, and "Moon in Hell," where distance is an emptiness inside as well as an escape. There are some notable differences from her previous albums, though. There's less of the wry humor Germano usually allows to shine through once in a while; In the Maybe World comes closest with the spooky singsong of "In the Land of Fairies" and "A Seed," which has such simple, almost childlike lyrics ("Love is a seed that wants to grow/Put it in your heart and let it go") that it sounds like the ruins of a nursery rhyme or a long-abandoned folk song. This is also her least gauzy-sounding album since Slide, with arrangements that focus mostly on piano and acoustic guitar. "After Monday" is a deeply surreal exception, however: the pretty haze of its verses gives way to choruses that sound like they're decaying -- one of Germano's oldest tricks, but still an effectively disorienting one. Despite these differences, In the Maybe World is still a strong addition to her body of work. Her music remains perpetually, impossibly fragile, but like cobwebs that seem like they should blow away with the slightest breeze, is actually built to last for years.

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