September 19, 2002

Test Spin: Mia Doi Todd

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On her major label debut, The Golden State, Mia Doi Todd shows just how much a big studio budget can do in the right hands. Rather than succumbing to the spectre of “selling out,” Todd employs the more complex arrangements allowed by a large studio to flesh out her simple acoustic songs.

Most of the tracks here are re-recordings of songs from her three independent releases, adding glockenspiel, piano, and eccentric percussion to Todd’s quirky vision. “Digital,” one of her more unique songs, features Asian undertones as the chanteuse spits out her stream-of-consciousness lyrics: “digital, binary system, ones and zeros, dark vs. light/ yin and yang, x and y.” On the delicate “Independence Day,” bolstered by strong Elliot Smith-style strumming, she plays with words like the poet she is, crooning clever laments like “I’m made out of wax/ so easy to impress.”

The enigmatic “Like A Knife” is a haunting ballad with soothing guitar figures that sound a lullaby to contrast with the harrowing lyrics. “Hijikata” is driven by martial drumming and tension-building piano, and the excellent “Autumn” is a lovely Beatles-esque tune led by an upbeat piano melody. There’s one or two nondescript ballads here, but on the whole, Todd’s major label nod is totally encouraging — she doesn’t sacrifice her unique voice, and she’s gained a whole new pallet of sounds to work with.

Archived article by Ed Howard