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Liz Phair

Growing out of the American underground of the late '80s, Liz Phair fused lo-fi indie rock production techniques with the sensibility and structure of classic singer/songwriters. Exile in Guyville, her gold-selling debut album, was enthusiastically praised upon its 1993 release, and spawned a rash of imitators during the following years, particularly American female singer/songwriters. For her part, Phair wasn't able to fully break into the mainstream, even with the support of the press and MTV. Whip-Smart, her second album, was heavily promoted upon its 1994 release, yet despite its relatively strong chart positions, it was viewed as a disappointment, and Phair's momentum declined steadily during the mid-'90s, as she took several years to record her third album.

Phair was born on April 17, 1967, in New Haven, CT. She was adopted by wealthy parents who raised her in the Chicago suburb Winnetka and later send her to Oberlin College in Ohio, where she studied art. At Oberlin, she became fascinated with underground indie rock and eventually became friends with guitarist Chris Brokaw, who would later join the alt-rock outfit Come. Following their college graduation, Phair and Brokaw both moved to San Francisco, where she tried to become an artist.

Eventually, Brokaw moved out east and Phair headed back to Chicago, where she began writing songs in earnest. She also started releasing homemade tapes of these songs under the name Girlysound. While she supported herself by selling her charcoal drawings on the streets of Wicker Park, she became entrenched in various portions of the Chicago alternative music scene; in particular, she struck up friendships with Urge Overkill, a drummer named Brad Wood, and John Henderson, the head of the Chicago-based indie label Feel Good All Over. Henderson and Phair tried to re-record some of the Girlysound tapes with Wood, yet the pair had a falling out during the sessions, leaving Wood as Phair's only collaborator. Brokaw, who had by then joined Come, was still receiving Girlysound tapes, and he eventually gave a copy to Gerard Cosley, the head of Come's record label, Matador. By the summer of 1992, Matador had signed Phair and she began recording her debut album in earnest.

Adapting its title from an Urge Overkill song, Exile in Guyville was released to strong reviews in the summer of 1993. Many articles focused on Phair's claim that the double album was structured as a response to the Rolling Stones' classic Exile on Main St. Over the course of the year, the record slowly built a dedicated following in America, both among critics and alternative rock fans. At the end of the year, it topped many Best of the Year critics polls, including The Village Voice and Spin. With all the attention focused on Phair, many indie rock figures -- particularly members of the Chicago noise rock scene like Steve Albini -- were developing a resentment toward her and launching an attack at the singer and the heavy media attention Exile in Guyville received. The criticism couldn't halt Phair's progress, though, and in early 1994 she launched her first tour, which was plagued by her stage fright. Around the same time, MTV began airing "Never Said" and, as a result of all the hype, the album briefly appeared in the charts in February. By the spring of 1994 it had sold over 200,000 copies -- a remarkable number for an independent release. It eventually sold over 500,000.

By that time, Phair had begun work on her follow-up record. Matador had signed a distribution deal with Atlantic Records in 1994, and her second album was going to be one of the first to be heavily promoted by the alliance. Indeed, Whip-Smart was released to a whirlwind of media attention -- including Phair, dressed only in negligee, on the cover of Rolling Stone -- and debuted at number 27 upon its fall 1994 release. "Supernova," the first single from the album, received heavy airplay on MTV and alternative rock radio, becoming a Top Ten modern rock hit. However, Whip-Smart received mediocre reviews and never developed into the hit that it was expected to be, although it still went gold. Phair didn't tour to support the album and was slow to deliver a second single. By the time the title track was released as a single in the spring of 1995, the album had disappeared from the charts.

Phair quietly retreated from the spotlight during 1995, marrying Jim Staskausas, a Chicago-based film editor who had previously worked on Phair's videos. Later that summer, she released the Juvenilia EP, which was essentially the "Jealousy" single amplified with the first official release of Girlysound material. During the summer of 1996, she released "Rocket Boy," a single pulled from the Stealing Beauty soundtrack that received little attention. For much of 1996, Phair worked on her third album with producer Scott Litt, but she remained unsatisfied with their sound and had officially scrapped the sessions by the time fall came around. Toward the end of 1996, Staskausas and Phair announced she was several months pregnant. On December 21, 1996, Phair gave birth to her first child, James Nicholas Staskausas. Her long-delayed, much-anticipated third LP, whitechocolatespaceegg, finally appeared in mid-1998.

Five years later, Phair returned with a controversial self-titled album. Liz Phair, which appeared in June 2003, and found her working with singer/songwriter Michael Penn and the Matrix, the latter of whom had risen to prominence in the pop world by launching artists like Avril Lavigne. Jimmy Chamberlin, Wendy Melvoin, and Pete Yorn also contributed to Phair's newly slick sound. When Liz Phair appeared, though, it was panned by purist rock critics and militant Liz nerds who felt she'd sold them out with the record's pop star sensibilities. Phair stood up for her work in typically brash fashion -- at times, it seemed like she even invited the fan boy ridicule -- and the album was a decent hit, with the leadoff single "Why Can't I" peaking at number 27 on the Billboard charts. Another album, Somebody's Miracle, appeared in fall 2005, but its relatively soft sound resulted in the slowest sales of Phair's career.

After reissuing Exile in Guyville in 2008, Phair began working on a number of offbeat, highly unconventional songs, many of which dealt with her recent departure from Capitol Records. Tired of working with record labels, she chose to release the material herself. Funstyle was appropriately released on her own website in July 2010, with the bhangra-influenced "Bollywood" becoming the album's first single; a physical release of Funstyle, paired with an EP of Girlysound demos, appeared in the fall. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Funstyle

Disc 1

1. Smoke

2. Bollywood

3. You Should Know Me

4. Miss September

5. My My

6. Oh Bangladesh

7. Bang! Bang!

8. Beat Is Up

9. And He Slayed Her

10. Satisfied

11. U Hate It

Disc 2

8. Love Song

x

Track List: Somebody's Miracle

1. Leap Of Innocence

2. Wind And The Mountain

3. Stars And Planets

4. Somebody's Miracle

5. Got My Own Thing

6. Count On My Love

7. Lazy Dreamer

8. Everything To Me

9. Closer To You

10. Table For One

11. Why I Lie

12. Lost Tonight

13. Everything (Between Us)

14. Giving It All To You

x

Track List: LIz Phair (Explicit)

1. Extraordinary

2. Red Light Fever

3. Why Can't I?

4. It's Sweet

5. Rock Me

6. Take A Look

7. Little Digger

8. Firewalker

9. Favorite

10. Love / Hate

11. H.W.C.

12. My Bionic Eyes

13. Friend Of Mine

14. Good Love Never Dies

x

Track List: whitechocolatespaceegg

1. White Chocolate Space Egg

2. Big Tall Man

3. Perfect World

4. Johnny Feelgood

5. Polyester Bride

6. Love Is Nothing

7. Baby Got Going

8. Uncle Alvarez

9. Only Son

10. Go On Ahead

11. Headache

12. Ride

13. What Makes You Happy

14. Fantasize

15. Shitloads Of Money

16. Girls Room

x

Track List: Whip-Smart

1. Chopsticks

2. Supernova

3. Support System

4. X-Ray Man

5. Shane

6. Nashville

7. Go West

8. Cinco De Mayo

9. Dogs Of L.A.

10. Whip-Smart

11. Jealousy

12. Crater Lake

13. Alice Springs

14. May Queen

x

Track List: Exile In Guyville

1. 6'1''

2. Help Me Mary

3. Glory

4. Dance of the Seven Veils

5. Never Said

7. Explain It To Me

8. Canary

9. Mesmerizing

10. F**k And Run

11. Girls! Girls! Girls!

12. Divorce Song

13. Shatter

14. Flower

15. Johnny Sunshine

16. Gunshy

17. Stratford-on-Guy

18. Strange Loop

x

Track List: My My (Radio Single)

1. My My

Comments

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Whip- smart is such a great album!!!
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Say i phone 5 times. Pick a color. Post this five time in other songs
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Okay, is there anybody on this page commenting on a song that ISN'T 'Why Can't I'? Or am I alone here...?
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'Divorce Song' is one big gut-punch. It's brilliant.
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marissavj14
I don't know liz phair that much i just love her song why can't I by her
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marissavj14
I am so happy that liz phair is on tour so happy for her ������������
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One hit wonder
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I love this song so much that McDonalds turned healthy
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Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you why can't I speak whenever I think about you.
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I love this song.
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:) ty for my teenage years! I miss you!
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Eddie and I am am don't know if
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Eddie and I am so I have a any other than that I am so that you are the other day y to use it yet but the new one day to see how is a y u in this is not y to me know the iuouo I am so going to the new year to be a in the other day your email is the other than that the new year to be a lot r
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Why can't I? ❤❤❤It
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I love this song so much that I love liz phair too much now
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Right when I heard this song it definitely remind me of that movie 13 going on 30 lol great movie love this song
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Why can't i <3
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wish I could look like her..
Skinny,
Pretty,
Nice hair,
Perfect,
Everything I wanna be,
Loved,
Treated right,
Understood,
More..
Look semi emo,
Beautiful..
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13 Going On 30
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I love this song so much better now
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:)
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I love it to
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LOVE YOUR SONGS! !!!! :D
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why can't i
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I love you Liz being an 90's chick I remember going to the music stores and having fights for your album you rock and I have your albums to this day
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U r awesome
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(Girl) be here
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(Girl) WOW, I LUV UR SONGS SO MUCH
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I wonder if I'm related to this girl....
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Ggggfrdcvfg
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Fffg
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I love Liz. She's close to my age but younger. She is sweet, hot and sophisticati n g l y trashy. I would abandon my current life to serve her if she would have me.
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IKR? @BAD WOLF I love tht movie
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13 going on 30
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Hey
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Love you Liz
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ingridvonpel t
Help Me Mary makes me tear up every time.
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Amazing songs and a great voice
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Who would win in a fight Liz Phair or the girls of L7?
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Liz Phair has got it. She kinda scares me. Wouldn't want to tick her off bet she would like to fistfight.
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stop buying into the lies people feed you just believe yourself there just misleading lies anyway not real ;)
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Amazing song
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I love this song makes me cry raheem i.love you wish you was.mind
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I love this
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Phair weather , nice.
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amymj2008
I love this song
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robrides07ch o p p e r s 4 9
Love it
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crimelabgirl 2 8 0
Love why can't I :>
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My two favorite albums are Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville and Morphine's cure For Pain. Amazingly for each of them, each album had just one bad song (i'd say just one non-tremendo u s tune). And for each of them, every song they ever recorded on any other album is shite. One-hit wonders I get, but how do you accidentally create such brilliance and then never whiff credible song writing again? Really too bad she didn't stop after Exile.
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Just realized in her song why can't I? She says we haven't f**ked yet but my head's spinning
Show more

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