Lisa Ridgely & The Fainting Room’s 2012 EP Wine In Bed was the kind of debut that garnered faint praise like “nice.” Its dark-hued Americana was pleasant enough to pass the time, but not quite bold enough to distinguish itself from dozens of other likeminded releases. All that changes on Ridgely’s new EP, Heart Hot, a terrific five-song collection that represents a confident leap forward in songwriting, production, and identity. When Ridgely coolly sings “I’ve been taking more pills than usual” on opener “Wanted More,” there’s no mistaking her for anyone else.
Heart Hot is far from an upbeat relationship album (see the above lyric), but there’s a welcome lightness to the proceedings that sets it apart from Wine In Bed. “Wanted More” immediately shows of Ridgely’s knack for finding a soothing but arresting melody, and scores even more points with the welcome addition of Nick Berg (Testa Rosa, Great Lakes Drifters, former Field Report) on keyboards. “Moment Of Wonderful” is a light-as-a-feather torch song highlighted by nice vocal work from Ridgely, while guest fiddle player Kimberly Unger (WhiskeyBelles, Reilly) shines on the resigned “Santa Fe.” The title track hews closest to Wine In Bed’s dark melancholy, but an added crunch of electric guitar and some airtight harmonies between Ridgely and bassist Sara Moilanen (WhiskeyBelles, West Of East) position it closer to sweetly jaded ’90s alt-rock than coffee house sonic wallpaper.
Though strong from start to finish, Heart Hot’s standout track is undoubtedly “Stopgap Girl,” a breezy country kiss-off previously released as a digital single in 2012. (It appears here remixed and remastered.) “I don’t talk sports, and I don’t know post-punk” smirks Ridgely before rattling off a litany of pointed, plainspoken, and funny disparities between herself and an all-too-temporary companion. A few Wisconsin-specific references make it a bit more hyper-local than necessary (the Packers and Gov. Walker make appearances), but its themes of transitory and exasperated love are clearly universal. Though an outlier in tone, “Stopgap Girl” gets to the heart of what makes Heart Hot so winning: effortless melody, refined songwriting, a wry sense of humor, and Ridgely’s newfound sense of self.
Lisa Ridgely & The Fainting Room celebrate the release of Heart Hot Friday, May 16 at Linneman’s. Caley Conway & The Lucy Cukes and Brew Tang open the show at 8 p.m. Admission is $6.
- "Stopgap Girl"
- "Wanted More"
- "Heart Hot"