Wrapped in bubble gum crinkle paper is Liska, the Chicago-based artist bringing the energy of pop to the sound of college radio rock. Landing somewhere between an 80s workout video and 90s synth-pop, Liska utilizes the power of the past—ballads in the form of a groovy baseline, an introductory cowbell—to keep us locked in time, yearning for early VH1 Top 20 Countdowns with songs like “Little Radio” and “Eye Candy.” Perfectly emulating the vibe of a Legally Blonde movie intro, Liska breaks out with a sound very fuzzy and pink, akin to Hoku’s “Perfect Day” or Superchick’s “One Girl Revolution.”
Liska, an alias name for multidisciplinary artist Annelise Steele, has been putting out a blend of bubble pop meets lo-fi rock music since her 2018 EP Crusher. Over her five-year stint in music, Liska has bloomed into a standout pop icon, hitting the nail on the head with a 2000s slumber party aesthetic that includes a night up late with the girlies engaging in pillow fights and angst-filled diary entries. Through her intentional choices to utilize different genres, blending a mix of quick drums alongside the harmony of a pedal point, Liska captures the strengths of the past and redefines it for modern times, remarketing the Y2K sound for the TikTok era.
And boy, does she come out swinging.
Maturing with lyrics the longer she’s been in the game, Le Boom, her 2022 release, is where Liska really finds her footing, carving out a style completely unique to the artist creating it. “Talking to the sun / speaking to the waves / asking for a sign / maybe praying for a change,” she sings on “I Choose Heaven,” questioning her place in life amidst heartbreak. Leaning on wailing vocals similar to Letters to Cleo or Bikini Kill, Liska embodies the energy of a front woman in the 90s, sifting endlessly through existential dread with rage or slowing things down on “Infinity” like a female Thom Yorke. “Infinity,” her first song off her latest EP, It Girl, breaks the ice before advancing into the whimsical, mystifying “Grapefruit,” enchanting in breathy fermatas.
With It Girl, Liska utilizes vulnerability as her greatest weapon. From the use of a stompbox pumping out rhythmic 80s dance beats in “Aura” to the heavy synth in “Boy,” It Girl takes the years Liska has put into her music and wraps it decadently in a sound uniquely Disney Channel Pop Rock Princess, reaching through time to solidify the past in the present. Liska’s previous projects have led to this, a five-song masterpiece implementing simple surf rock, light drums, and ethereal vocals that muse on crushes, insecurity, and self-discovery. “You used to be the one who could save me / now you’re the monster scaring me baby,” Liska sings in “Grapefruit,” a heartbreaking song that turns self-reflection inward before searching for acceptance with “Boy.” All of this sets us up for “It Girl,” a reclamation of the fact that we are all the main characters in our lives.
Across the board, each EP captures a different vibe depending on what you’re feeling. Maybe you’re getting ready to go out and putting on lipstick with Crusher. Maybe you’re journaling near the window under a steady downpour of rain with Jupiter. Maybe you’re missing your ex and realize you shouldn’t with It Girl. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re on the come-up from a breakup, dancing around your room to Le Boom. No matter what, Liska wants you to know her music is for gays and girlies who are ready to dance, cry, and scream.