In 2018, Liz Phair received her best reviews in 25 years with the re-release of her classic debut Exile in Guyville that also included the The Girly-Sound Tapes comprised of the lo-fi tracks she recorded around that time. The debut is an alt rock classic and the tapes were a fascinating look at the early songs, some of which would grow in stature on future albums. After completing a memoir in 2019, Phair returned to work with Exile’s producer Brad Wood on a new set of songs released as Soberish.
Many songs explore the world of dating as an adult. “Ba Ba Ba” is a standout pop track that speaks of wanting to tell a partner she feels safe with him before the music on the third verse ups the ante to make it a more thrilling ride. “Lonely Street” sees Phair more vulnerable as she switches to a falsetto in the chorus and tells a partner that “I’ve got friends to pick up the loose ends” before leaving another relationship with her “Good Side”.
Many of the themes on Soberish are ones that Phair’s fans from the 90s could certainly relate to however they are often pedestrian in either music or lyrics. On “In There” we’re told that her “confidence is shook, I don’t know where to look” and “Soul Sucker” doesn’t explain much more about a partner than what the title says. “Spanish Doors” succeeds on being a pretty good radio pop track and second single “Hey Lou” talks about Lou Reed getting high and talking shit about Warhol, making it one of the more memorable tracks of the early new year. Soberish hits just enough to keep fans engaged while Liz Phair manages to get a lot off her chest.