Thao & Mirah – Thao & Mirah (kill rock stars)
by Cheri Amour
Thao & Mirah are somewhat of a supergroup (in indie-folk terms rather than aging rockers hungry for a festival slot). Both are respected solo artists in their own right. Mirah is a blissful delight of breathy, mercurial vocals over intimate folk tinkering, while Thao’s approach is more rollicking, with quirky-sharp art clips and peppy indie swank.
This is the duo’s first album together, having originally paired up for a one-off set at 2010’s Noise Pop festival in San Francisco. And like the merging of two great elements, this album starts with a bang. Explosive new single, ‘Eleven’, was written by tUnE-yArDs mastermind Merrill Garbus who also stepped up to offer some of her off-kilter production cool by co-producing this album. Bounding in with processed drum clatter, swirling main melodies and a handclap frenzy that jars like gunfire, ‘Eleven’ sounds like it was brewed in the heart of downtown of NY. A dash of electronica, a hint of M.I.A street chorus cool and it makes for a burly (but not entirely representative) entrance to the duo’s sound.
Far from it. ‘Little Cup’ is fragile and warm with the bittersweet line, “Cups and horses couldn’t carry all I longed to give”, delivered with the delicate fragility of its china-based title. At times, Mirah’s vocal drawl has the dulcet twang of Metric front-woman Emily Haines [Mirah’s recording career predates Emily’s by a few years – Historical Accuracy Ed] and paired with the syncopated harmonies of Thao eerily skirting around the track, it sounds like Metric’s similarly saccharine ‘Raw Sugar’. Dashing from honeyed sentiment to a bombastic horn section, track ‘Rubies And Rocks’ is when things really start to kick off and could easily be a Thao set staple.
The beautifully crafted ‘How Dare You’ is a shining example of this stellar accord.
Brandishing such shared lines as, ‘”No, you can’t lie there, that’s where we used to sleep”, the song holds a simple honesty that is enough to warm the hardest of hearts. The fuzzy and sporadic drum rhythms and clambering vocal rivalry is not a far cry from a similarly delightful pairing, Tegan And Sara. And there’s certainly always time for that.
The album closer, ‘Squareneck’, is a jovial blues number with dotty guitar slides, clanking rhythm section and infectious laughter. The vast range of styles that pop up on this album only serves to cement the idea that Thao & Mirah are less timid than their folkie peers. Their ambitious and resolute approach to showcasing all of their talents may seem a little foolhardy in sound-bite form, but ultimately this exploratory period will help serve up the most interesting listens in the future.