Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mia Doi Todd

Mia Doi Todd's latest seemed a little too easy listening to review at Blurt.

Mia Doi Todd
Cosmic Ocean Ship
(City Zen)

Mia Doi Todd has a voice that flickers like flame, unfurling at the slightest breath of air into acrobatic plumes and flourishes, then drawing back into itself in calmer moments, steady and free of vibrato. High and sweet, she can mimic a piccolo's purity. In lower, jazzier registers, she sounds more like a clarinet, sliding softly over the half tones. Todd's singing is so remarkable that listeners become transfixed by it, failing, in their concentration, to notice the subtle way her songs are put together or the aptness of the instrumental arrangements.

Todd has, perhaps, struggled with this a bit. Her last album, Morning Music, was all instrumentals, and on this ninth full-length, she seems to be pulling back from pure vocal intensity. She floats here, mostly, over downtempo reveries in various Latin idioms ("Paraty", "Gracias a la Vida"). She sings sweetly, without much drama, to the lilting rhythms of Laurel Canyon pop ("My Baby Lives in Paris"). She follows the contours of slow-bending melodies with a fluting, fluttering serenity, never rushing, never straining, never ruffling the surface of her pretty songs. Where Manzanita's loveliness sometimes dropped away to reveal shocking depth of feeling, these songs seem to surf atop the froth. They're easy to listen to, but hard to pin down. Where is the muscle, blood and bone?


Check out the album stream here

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