W/ Calvin Johnson, C.O.C.O., The Blow
Sat June 1
Sat June 1
5742 NE Mallory, 2pm
Certain songs on Mirah's newest record, Advisory Committee, have the potential to make one pass out from their proximity. The sound of her lilting/strong voice is textural, humid, sweet and close, buzzing so thickly as to induce swooning. Underneath, the drone of air organ, guitar, ukulele, xylophone, drums, violin, accordion, musical saw, and a host of other instruments, act as doe-eyed servants, willing to do the fair maiden's bidding at the bat of an eyelash.
Part of the reason for this is in the recording; made by Mirah and Phil Elvrum, they just have a knack for making everything sound so textured you feel like you could touch it. Mirah explains, "The songs I recorded by myself were definitely without forethought, and only exist as experiments of themselves. The others varied. For 'Cold Cold Water,' Phil and I listened to old records and jotted down ideas. We wrote out a meter-long chart listing all the different sections and instrumentations. The 'Mt. St. Helens' which is on the album is actually the second recording of that song, the first having been lost mysteriously along with two other recordings on a reel of tape which disappeared from the studio. Although it isn't mine or Phil's usual style, we had inadvertently made a 'practice recording' and in the process of re-recording, we created what I think is a better version."
But the other reason for Mirah's astronomical pass-out factor is because she makes some of the most wonderful music ever, ranging from huge pop songs to straight-up folk, to epic westerns to klezmer-tinged, waltzing torches, all flavored with her hopeful, passionate, honest lyrics. Her vocals are delicate and strong, inspiring empathy; when she sings, "From the morning when I rise from my bed/till the evening when I lay my head in slumber/the loss of you does wreck my days/ leaves me with a violent hunger," your HEART BREAKS along with her. I wonder if it ever feels weird or hard to be so open about her life, and she responds, "Wouldn't it be devastating if I were just making all this stuff up? Even more so than it already is, all being true. I don't think much about the honesty. It's more about not trying than trying, and if there is difficulty in it, then that's probably what makes it good for me."
But where has Mirah been lately? We haven't seen much of her, though she used to visit Portland frequently when she lived in Olympia. She says, "Since November, when I moved my belongings into my parent's garage for an extended period of storage, I've been in the woods and in the backyard and over the ocean and back, feeling out Philadelphia, traveling compulsively."
So, has she found what she's looking for?
"I was looking around a lot, and I found it everywhere."
It might sound like an esoteric response to an esoteric question, but after listening to her music a million times over, that answer sounds like one of her lyrics--kind of big in its simplicity. For instance, in "Monument," which she says is her favorite song she's written, the lyrics say, "If that should cease to exist/then throw my heart away If you feel an emptiness, if you want to hide/think about the blood that's keeping you alive." She sings it in the most matter-of-fact, prettiest way over a spare melody of fingerpicked guitar.
It's likely that's how Mirah's shows will go--just herself, her guitar, and her wonderful voice and lyrics. But see, somehow it all adds up to sounding a lot bigger than that; in any case, the "thud" of your head hitting the ground as you swoon will sound a little bit like a kick drum.