I first heard singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd on my local NPR outlet, KCRW which is arguably the best radio station on the planet. It was so different from anything else I had been hearing that I was instantly intrigued. I got her album Manzanita shortly thereafter, and studied it as one studies art history, or evolutionary biology. I was never ever able to make any sense of what it was that drew me to these strange songs sung in the oddly hypnotic voice. They haunt me still.
Even now , when I chance upon her work, I still have no answer. The songs are simple, the verse has a regular meter and precise structure, and the vocals are impeccably accurate and steady. They speak of relationships and the like, hardly mysterious subjects, and flow with an easy, relaxed manner. The effect of the marvelous voice and the off- balanced twists to these observations suggest some kind of post-modern ennui seen as if through a glass, and darkly.
The song “What if We Do” is such a song, with it’s almost breezy lilt on the theme of a building affair. And yet, in both the musical shifts and vocal changes it suggests the dangers and doom that could be lurking just around the corner. It is the finest declamation of that point in a relationship when things are going to change, inevitably and irrevocably, for better or worse. Life at the point of no return, proclaimed as if by a child.
I heard this bittersweet tune just the other day, and was surprised yet again at how vertigo inducing it is, and that it has, once again, stuck in my head for days.
This in-studio recording is only slightly less produced than the album version (none of her work carries much baggage) and is simply perfect. I am waiting for the day when I can understand the curious case of Mia Doi Todd.
by Michael Merline