Lisa Bianco – From The City That Never Sleeps To The Jersey Shore
Lisa Bianco is probably the East Coast’s number one most apt pupil. I say this because every time there is a workshop or an industry related show, I see her front and center intent on being the best she can be, and gaining a sharp edge over some the musicians that take this art form largely for granted. Sure, not everyone fits the description in the story of the tortoise and the hare, but there are a few that seem to think they are immune as they snooze against the proverbial tree, oblivious to the coming future of working in the lumberyard.
Lisa has always been considered Asbury Park’s adopted daughter. A performer emerging from New York City’s underground scene, Bianco has earned laudatory notices from publications such as CMJ (“Distinctive NYC underground songstress”), the Village Voice (“galvanizing”) and yes, our own reviewers here at The Aquarian who have said, “Bianco is spreading a unique sound throughout the New York underground. An interesting blend of alternative, guitar rock and pure punk aggression has led to a very distinct calling.” That praise has come in the wake of her electric live shows that erase the distance between artist and audience. Lisa says, “I play and tour because it provides a sense of purpose. I often feel like a messenger. When I’m on stage, I feel so alive, and I work to convey that to everyone.”
Well if Lisa is the messenger, her brand new CD, titled Momentum, is the speedy vehicle that is moving her up the ladder of industry recognition. Combining down and dirty electrics with addictive, sugar sweet melodies, Bianco once again squeezes the proverbial rock and roll mainstream juice into her cup of bratty punk snarl and the results are a big, bold biological reaction of compositional passion and vision.
Bryan Russell from Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn produced Momentum and he made sure that this record stood out from anything else in its comparable field. Bianco is the type of artist that needs her space and plenty of free rein when it comes to discovering her pathway to composition.
Where Russell comes in handy is the overall continuity factor. His credentials are an impeccable array of names such as Straylight Run, Envy on the Coast, The Academy Is and Anterrabae, and he has worked on records with Coldplay, Dream Theater, Paul Simon, Blue Wolf and Steely Dan.
Lisa Bianco’s writing has matured tremendously on Momentum. The disc is deliciously ominous and dark, sparkling with a passion and vitality, all fueled by her intense and tasteful guitar playing. Momentum is actually her third recorded attempt at the brass ring, building off her previous successes on her solo 2009 release, Post Data, and her previous band’s release of the Hunted Rebirth EP.
Momentum is just seven songs, but Bianco must have anguished for months on picking her best compositions because this disc makes phenomenal sense. I picture her circling the songs, almost like a sculpture before an art opening, checking everything countless times, but it has paid off well on this project. I listened to the CD several times, picking out new melodies and intricate lyrical messages with each new pass.
My curious obsession at seeing which path a songwriter will take in composition was completely sated as I listened to Bianco dodge right and left, tackling mid-tempo quasi ballads with punch and panache while throttling down hard on her punk-tinged rock-and-roll romps.
“Breakin” is the first song on the disc and Bianco wastes no time getting straight to the point. Weezer-styled guitar lines fly alongside frosting sweet vocal melodies and rumbling bass guitar. Bianco uses the guitar as a second voice, spinning double dosed webs of harmonic bliss and tone. Vocals are reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper and Katy Perry. Dynamic snare shots in the verse hail the plaintive and building vocal before the band kicks into the platinum chorus. Bianco scores well with “Breakin” and shows that she has what it takes to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone.
“Erase You” explodes onto the platter with hard-hitting drums courtesy of Lou Petto. Petto definitely meters this aggressive song well, bringing the dynamic up to match Bianco’s frenetic guitar and vocal attack. Influential ghosts of Michelle Branch float throughout this chic rocker.
“Charmed” busts loose with Joan Jett meets Avril Lavigne attitude. Punky rock and roll dressed up in a leather collar is what this is. Bianco unleashes her crunchy, staccato guitar and vocal intro before launching in your face verses that duck unrestrained choruses, pulling at the emotive strings of anyone into good old-fashioned attitude. The middle eight breaks it down and the lead break rips your face off with its dark, Les Paul-toned bends.
“Big City Lights” once again features the A-list rhythm work of Ari Sadowitz and Lou Petto. These two go together like guns and ammo, complimenting everything Bianco does here quite well. What “Big City Lights” lacks in pop radio gold, it makes up for with its ballsy style and overall tone. Think Hayley Williams of Paramore meets Orianthi and you are on the rock and roll money.
“Lovely” winds out slow. Clean, echo-drenched guitars drizzle into Bianco’s reverb plated vocal as she solos up into the golden swept chorus. Her playing is simple and effective, squeezing soul and open chorded voicing into the pristine chorus. Influential whispers of Grace Potter make this gem glisten and shine.
“No Doubt About It” launches with the influential power of a Louise Post (Varuca Salt) and never slows down till the final note. Lisa and crew belt it out ‘80s style at first, hustling out the ultra hip drum programming skills of producer Bryan Russell before kicking it into analog overdrive. Supersonic electrics cover everything with a jagged and grungy power as the band nails it to the wall. There really is no doubt about it; this song is a contender for Billboard chart activity.
“Low” really sums up Momentum, revving the tail end of this disc like a big block 350 racing down the Parkway. Heavy duty beats and down-stroked guitars push sound after sonic sound into Bianco’s vocal as she rides the whole thing like a tsunami. Undertones of Sheryl Crow and her 1996 eponymous album come to mind on this sure to be hit song.
Lisa Bianco is one of two artists (Kelly Carvin is the other one) that have come way up in talent and visibility in the last year. Her willingness to learn and apply musical knowledge to her own compositions is evident and commendable. Momentum means much more than new product for this artist, it means real movement and direction. Moreover, in the case of Lisa Bianco, that movement is both positive and on the way up. For more information on the CD or any of the live shows she will be playing, head over to lisabianco.com.