Often, the stereotype of Canada is that our winters are universally cold and miserable. While that is true once the season sets in, what people don’t know is how weird winter can be in the months that lead it in and close it out. For example, just a week ago in Montreal, we had one day that reached a 17° Celsius (62° Fahrenheit) high immediately followed by a day that got no warmer than 1° Celsius (33° Fahrenheit). This doesn’t even begin to explain the Chinook factor that can cause summer like weather in the Prairies even in the dead middle of winter. Winter is as unpredictable as it is cold, and if you’re lucky, can offer a brief respite and glimpse at the summer ahead, even in the most desperate of climates.
Mi and L’au met in Paris, and after a courtship befitting one of the most romantic cities in the world, they moved to Mi’s home country of Finland, where they settled into a cabin the woods. Looking at the snowy, greeting card like cover of their debut album, it certainly seems that there can’t be much else to do in the woods in winter except maybe chop wood and write music. Their debut album beautifully captures the isolation in which they live, coupled with passion they bring to each other and their music.
Recorded by the duo themselves at home with overdubs added later in Brooklyn, their delicate and spacious songs are positively inviting. Stretching out comfortably over 14 tracks, Mi and L’au patiently unfold their carefully arranged songs. Led largely by Mi’s fragile, yet strong voice the couple supports their songs with little more than acoustic guitar and occasional strings. The simple arrangements allow for Mi’s voice to be pushed to the fore, enveloping the listener in its lightly accented warmth. L’au’s guitar playing rings clear as a bell, as you practically hear his fingers plucking the strings and forming the chords that gently drift behind his lover’s voice.
Unfortunately, the carefully considered mood the duo conjures becomes a serious drag in the latter stretch. The songs begin to blend into one and another, and duo’s formula begins to become painfully apparent. L’au’s somber and minimal approach begins to draw attention to the fact that maybe he just really isn’t that great of a guitarist, while one wishes L’au could try something different from time to time rather than the same, measured delivery she does in every song. Even the pacing of the album begins to wear as one wishes to hear at least one number that races at a rate at least higher than a very slow waltz.
Mi and L’au’s authentic minimalism is both the album’s strength and weakness. There is no doubt that every note and every breath is sincere, but the constantly introspective and singular compositions that were involving at first become insolating later. These are 14 songs that are in desperate need of a strong Chinook wind that will move the tenderness the duo feel for each other outward through the speakers to touch the listener as well.