erasing clouds

Mirah, C'mon Miracle

reviewed by dave heaton

Mirah's debut album You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This was an intimate, warm folk-pop album that was also an extroverted showstopper - Mirah's voice reached out and grabbed you no matter how quietly she was singing, and that quality was accentuated by a stark atmosphere, frank lyrics and her playful sense for crossing styles and genres. The sense of atmosphere and genre-blurring was pushed even further on her more musically ambitious follow-up Advisory Committee. And all of these qualities are pushed even further on her third full-length C'mon Miracle, though it'll take you numerous listens before you realize it. Why? Because the tone of this album is introverted - it's quiet, delicate, gentle. It's the kind of album that lazy critics dismiss after one listen, because there's nothing immediately sparkling about it...the kind of album those same critics will find haunting them years from now, when they realize that they let a masterpiece slip past them.

It may surprise you to learn that Mirah's most gentle and understated album is also her most political...that is, if you expect politically aware music to be overly strident or simplistic. This isn't that sort of protest music, not music that favors a message at the expense of the music. Rather, these are gorgeous, perfectly written pop songs that in their musical sensitivity and complexity also contain a caring for humanity and a desire to make the world a more just, peaceful place. They contain ambiguities and mystery, like the best songs do, like the world does, but they're also aimed at making people think and feel and then act in a positive way for humanity. That's always a noble goal, but it's even better when the songs are honest and spellbinding, not contraptions to hang agendas on. There's no hidden agenda here, just a person speaking her mind through songs.

C'mon Miracle is a casually diverse album, both musically and lyrically...or, I should say, casually inclusive, as it casts a broad net but holds everything together as one. The lyrics are about relationships in the broadest of senses - with stories, scenes and thoughts about how people treat people, whether it's how a lover treats a lover or a government treats its people (or another government's people). Musically the album subtly pulls in strains of folk music from across the globe to meet not only catchy pop melodies and simply strummed guitar but also graceful strings and piano.

Mirah's voice here is more devastatingly perfect than ever. She's shown on previous albums that she can sing jazz as easily as folk, show anger as quickly as love. Here she sings with a gorgeous placidity, managing to sound like the embodiment of peace while also expressing a range of emotions in a quietly forceful way. Though to say that the lyrics, songs, and instrumentation are remarkable is a severe understatement, her singing makes all the difference here. If you're ever going to believe that a singer can change a mind simply through singing, now is the time. "Would you promise to be kind?", Mirah asks towards the end of the album, and I can't imagine anyone not wanting to say yes.

K Records:

Issue 23, May 2004

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