Lisa O'Neill
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Lisa O'Neill

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Band Folk


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"Lisa O'Neill"

Vancouver, BC singer-songwriter Lisa O'Neill's self-released debut is a down-tempo collection brimming with atmosphere. With East Van fixtures Jesse Waldman on guitar and Nick Stecz on drums, O'Neill builds layered compositions that shiver with blissful melancholy. The disc begins with "Partner," a dreamy blossom of a song that opens up into a lush bouquet boasting more than a hint of Mazzy Star in its airy vocals. Instrumental touches, such as the chiming Fender Rhodes on "Trouble" and lap steel on "Leave," add edge and tension that counteract the sweetness of O'Neill's voice. The jazzy "Letter," the country-tinged "Leave" and the grubbier guitar vibe of "Give It Up" change the pace just as the mood turns a little too morose. Though some of the brighter tunes might have benefited from a lighter hand on the reverb knob, O'Neill's range and versatility as a songwriter are evident throughout this lovely collection. (Independent) - Exclaim!

"Lisa O'Neill/Partner"

There is both an innocence and a vulnerability in Lisa O'Neill which is somewhat disarming. After listening to Partner, you might envision the girl next door or your best friend or the girlfriend of your best friend who does not treat her the way he should. She mirrors the insecurities of life we all experience during our most unguarded moments, those times when we see ourselves as others must see us and not as we really are. We lift our chins at those moments and tough it out, but low points are low pints and they hurt all the same. Sure, but Lisa O'Neill is neither angst-ridden nor suicidal, but so vulnerable that at times she makes you want to protect her and makes you hope that when the time comes, she will return the favor. It is in her music. It is in her voice.

Trouble opened Lisa O'Neill to me, the slow pace and Wes Montgomery guitar sound reaching deep down and refusing to let go. Something in that... slow... lyrical... delivery with the soft mid-tempo beat and alluring melody that caught the ear and tugged on the heart--- “Am I..... Causing..... Tru-buullll...” A magnificent moment. She does it again in Amiss, breathy voice over simple plucked acoustic guitar, add piano chords, add guitar chords, add strings, and as it builds, you float away as she sings “there's this miss..... communication” sailing over clouds and into the reverb. It is so soft and so quiet and so true.

The album is not all quiet and soft and slow-paced, but even the more upbeat tracks have a soft O'Neill edge: the fifties-tinged On Your Side with its shuffle beat and masterful guitar, heavy on the reverb and tremolo bar (Jesse Waldman deserves an award or two not only for his immaculately tasty guitar work on this and other tracks, but for a superb production job); the sparse rocker Give It Up, voices and guitar forging teamwork in sound.

Though the music is not really folk (it is not really anything but O'Neill, to my ears), it does touch the folk fringe with Letter and Partner, the acoustic chording leaning in that direction with the odd minor chords thrown in just enough to give it that a bit of a jazz sheen.

I love O'Neill's voice (it is form-fit to her songs), but to those who have to have the magnificent pitch and perfect pipes, all I can say is, you miss a lot. When musicians like Lisa O'Neill sing, it is as much about the phrasing as hitting every note and she does the job. Breathy, melancholy, upbeat, happy--- her phrasing magnifies, her heart amplifies.

It took two whole listens for Partner to jump into my 2009 Top Ten List (which has now grown to over 20--- it is a banner year), and the more I listen, the more I like it. I've been listening to it a lot. That won't change for some time to come.


"Lisa O'Neill's Partner is an absolute delight"

Lisa O’Neill’s debut is an absolute delight. Combining elements of folk and down-tempo country, the local singer-songwriter weaves intimate tales that will calm your soul faster than a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s latest bestseller. O’Neill’s subject matter isn’t anything you won’t find tucked away in the liner notes of an Aimee Mann album, but the enchanting singer manages to carry off the standard woes with a personal flare that’s altogether compelling. Opting for somewhat subdued instrumentation to accentuate her breathy vocals, she makes her mark as one of Vancouver’s premier singers.

While the emotional power of the disc is largely due to O’Neill’s ingenuity, the contribution of her hired guns can’t be overlooked. Guitarist Jesse Waldman, drummer Nick Stecz, bassist Faye Millet, and pedal steel guitarist Jesse Griffith help to transform an open-mike routine into the polished sound heard here. Tracks like the melancholic lullaby “Trouble” and the swoony, country-tinged “On Your Side”—a memorable number that floats along with the twang of Griffith’s pedal steel—wouldn’t reach such heights if tackled by a lone acoustic guitar.

The singer-songwriter genre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s hard not to be moved by O’Neill’s heart-on-sleeve style. If the idea of slow dancing on the back porch or stealing kisses from a lover under the midnight sky makes your heart flutter, Partner’s romantic undertones are just the ticket. All of this might sound overly sentimental, but there’s certainly a market for it—just ask Sarah McLachlan to tell you about a little thing called Lilith Fair.

- Georgia Straight:


Partner 2009



Lisa O’Neill’s music is an eclectic blend of dreamy folk, subdued country and silky smooth vocals resulting in a style that is distinctly her own. With influences ranging from Hope Sandoval, Aimee Mann, Cowboy Junkies and Cat Power, Lisa arranges melodic and nostalgic songs that explore the complexities of life and relationships. In short, it’s music to think and relax to.

From her childhood spent stumbling through rural bliss around a small town in Northern Ireland to her family’s move to Vancouver Island where she spent a knockabout adolescence, Lisa O’ Neill stumbled into the world of music at age 17 after learning three chords on a hand-me-down guitar. Since moving to Vancouver in 2000, Lisa has spent the last 9 years honing her talents through open-mics, collaborating with musicians from Vancouver and abroad and promoting other artists by hosting singer-songwriter events. With an inner propensity towards perfectionism, the road has sometimes been rocky with several detours along the way but her innate drive towards music has always brought her back on track.

Getting back on track is exactly what Lisa did in late 2007. She paired up with guitar player and previous band-mate Jesse Waldman and met drummer Nick Stecz at their mutual place of work. In Waldman’s East Vancouver studio Red Light Sound the trio worked on what would become “Partner”, a collection of ten songs illuminated through Waldman’s engineering and production. The album also includes some of Vancouver’s finest musicians: Jen Lewin, Kim Koch, Tim Tweedale and Toronto’s Michael Liston. Central to the album’s sound is a passion for infusing an idyllic world of serenity with the somber tones of reality. The result is a sophisticated mix balancing the hypnotic with the sensual, distilled into a tonic for whatever ails you.