Last night while John and I were talking, he sent me this new album from Mia Doi Todd as a gift through iTunes. I clicked the link in my e-mail and redeemed the album. Although I transferred it immediately to my iPod, I didn't listen to it until this morning when I walked Beau.
Upon my first listen, I might call it contemplatively boring. Individually, the songs are pretty and pleasant, but in a way that is ignorable and that lets you focus more on the world around you. During a long walk or a weekend drive (if you can afford the gas!), this music lets the senses do what they will without interruption. The coherence of the album comes from its repetitiveness, but if you're looking for upbeat pop or rock, it's not here. Mostly the singer and her guitar, there is little harmonic invention, and an ear hoping for teases and tricks will find none.
Work out music it isn't, unless the work out is slow yoga, and then this album might be perfect. I've no familiarity with any of the rest of Ms. Todd's opera, so I make comment only on Gea. The sound isn't original because there are many other artists that fit this genre of plaintive singer/songwriter on the verge of clinical depression (Nick Drake for example), and some might do it better (Nick Drake for example, except he's dead because he went past the verge into suicidal depression). But there is a place for Ms. Todd somewhere in my music collection, and I'm glad to add her to my almost-chock-full-of-music iPod. (I'm running out of space for my favorite podcasts! Help!) She may very well accompany my next yoga routine. Sometimes icy and scalding are extremes that cannot exist if there is no lukewarm, and Ms. Todd's lukewarm folksy-pop might provide better perspective of the soundscape around her.
My own criticism aside, reading the reviews on iTunes is its own comic relief. No one has anything musical to write about the album. The 33 reviews listed at the time of this writing are nothing more than a restaurant wait list of lovers and haters and a few feeling apathy with an attempt at a favorable review. Even the NY Times review that a fan copied & pasted to iTunes wasn't especially clever or helpful. The first review was little more than a moronic "yeah, I'm first". The haters are more than likely too video-game-quick-click-attention-span to be able to listen to the entire album or perhaps to read an entire novel of more than a couple hundred pages in order to give a substantive review. The lovers are mostly in love with their own fawning text. The rest gave middle-ground ratings and could provide little detail as to why. In the end, with all the audience and performers that exist, there's a match for everyone, I'm sure.
(album artwork for Gea and color layout as distributed through iTunes)