You feel dirty listening to Mirah. The distinct of feeling that you’ve stepped into someone’s private stash of recordings is rarely felt more firmly than in listening to Mirah. In her second solo release for the independent K label, Mirah has once again traced the same territory that she traversed in You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This.
In her debut release, Mirah was armed merely with an acoustic guitar and her singing voice on most songs. Sometimes drums and bass made their mark in Microphones-style freakouts, but for the most part it was a quiet, intimate, and most importantly cohesive affair. Ebbs and flows were found on the debut record and when the songs began to sound alike, Mirah would present the listener with a nugget of lyrical interest such as, “You’ve got pollen on your nose / I’ve been licking like a garden hose”, or “And when you get home you can tie me to the Murphy Bed / Let’s do all the things you said”. There is an obvious comfort with sexuality that was presented on her first album- this theme continues unabated on Advisory Committee.
All of the songs tend to focus on love, in all of its forms. Companionship seems to be a major concern for Mirah. On “Make It Hot”, she sings, “Make it hot / Take me over and over and over”, while on “Apples In The Trees” she tells of “love beyond compare”. Her fixation with love and the complexity of relationships has certainly not abated in the time between albums. However, the music that accompanies her as she tells these stories is somewhat different.
Just looking at the cover art on the Cold Cold Water EP, which was released before the album, one gets the feeling that they have been transported back to a western movie scored by Ennio Morricone. This track leads off the album and details Mirah’s first person trek from the safety of home to the eventual safety of a love. The production envelops Mirah’s delicate and innocent voice, which heralds an immediate change from the sometimes naked and innocent voice heard on her debut album. The most immediate draw to Mirah on her debut was the directness of the melodies and lyrics, unencumbered by anything else. As previously stated, the music had a voyeuristic aspect to it, as though the listener had chanced upon something that they weren’t supposed to hear. Mirah seems to have become much more self assured on this record. Thick and interesting production is heard on almost every track, and when it is just Mirah and an acoustic guitar again, it almost becomes a respite from the textures that permeate the rest of the album.
With You Think It’s Like This…, Mirah was likened to other coffeehouse songstresses, such as Liz Phair and Jewel. Her intensely skilled maneuvering in the lo fi aesthetic endeared her to most independent record collectors, but she failed to make a large commercial dent with her music. With this record we see a definite change in the garnishing of production courtesy of Phil Elvrum of The Microphones. The Microphones’ album of last year, The Glow, Part Two, while being the most overrated independent record of the year, did feature interesting production. What Elvrum lacks in his own band, however, is what Mirah has—pop song structures and consistently interesting lyricism. The Glow, Part Two suffered in its second half from being overly long and the songs blending into each other, without any of the sort of highlights that dotted the first half. On this record, however, the one minor failing is the schizophrenic nature of Elvrum’s production techniques. As many of the songs on her debut only contained Mirah and her acoustic guitar, the production on Advisory Committee is sometimes overbearing. The acoustic guitar is present on this record, but it is garnished with electronics, accordion, and other varied instrumentation. It leaves the listener surprised at first hearing, but also disconcerts because of the varied nature of not knowing what is going to come next.
The end result is par for the course on second records for most independent artists. After carving a particular niche, the artist attempts to branch out, to a degree, from the established paradigm. In Mirah’s case this is done in a fashion that makes her second record a joy to listen to, but only as a collection of songs, and not as a cohesive record.