Soberish is a portrait of Phair in the present tense, taking all of the facets of her melodic output over the years and synthesizing them into a beautiful, perfect whole. She’s at the top of her game in the recording studio, drawing upon years of experience in television composition to weave through the songs daring and unexpected sound design. With Brad Wood’s exquisite engineering and masterful production, the result is a wholly fresh yet satisfyingly familiar sound that challenges on the first listen and seduces with each subsequent play through. The earworms are strong with this one!
None of the arrangements on Soberish are traditional songwriting standards, but the hooks are so catchy, the imagery so compelling, that the listener is drawn effortlessly along with the music. There are the off-kilter, unexpected guitar chords listeners will recognize as her signature style, a mainstay from her earliest work; the instantly knowable choruses of her most pop-friendly songs of the early 2000’s; the frank lyricism and storytelling that has opened doors for countless women picking up guitars and attempting to speak about their experiences.
If Liz Phair’s career has had a governing philosophy, we might take it as this: hold to the centre, swing around. This return, this new collection of songs, shows her at her finest: playful, inquisitive, uncompromising, but anchored. The centre can still hold.
- Rough Trade