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Album Review

After a peculiarly over-produced major label effort, 2002's The Golden State, and a far superior three-year stint on the electronic-oriented indie Plug Research, singer/songwriter Mia Doi Todd returns to her own City Zen imprint, last used for 2001's spartan Zeroone, for her sixth album. Over a decade into a sometimes uneven but compelling career, Todd is suddenly part of one of the Hot New Trends of the late '00s, the female singer/songwriter. Where for most of her career, Todd's brand of delicate indie folk has been a commercial outlier, in a musical scene where acts like Feist, Emily Haines, Kate Nash, Regina Spektor and Keren Ann are dominating iPod play lists and increasingly finding mainstream pop success, GEA sounds very much like an album of its time and place. Crucially, Todd has abandoned the solo acoustic style that's her trademark, but unlike the overstuffed, keyboard-drenched and glossy The Golden State, she and producer Carlos Niño wisely chose a simple small-combo setting for GEA: harmonium, minimal percussion, and occasional subtle arrangements for woodwinds, strings, and/or horns by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, a young veteran of the Los Angeles jazz and new music scenes. The mature, jazzy settings mesh perfectly with Todd's conservatory-trained voice, which has rarely sounded lovelier. With its combination of cool jazz, modern classical, and singer/songwriter influences, as well as Todd's fondness for unconventional tunings, GEA could potentially seem too abstract or cerebral for a mass audience. Opening an album with a ten-minute two-part epic like "River of Life/The Yes Song" is proof that Todd is not necessarily looking to score the next episode of Grey's Anatomy. But Todd's lyrics on songs like the heartbroken "In the End" are so plain-spoken and so lacking in the pretentious poetry one might expect from the high-minded surroundings that there's an immediacy and a sense of personal connection that relates back to confessional singer/songwriter classics like Joni Mitchell's string of early-'70s albums. That's heady company for a contemporary singer/songwriter, but with her finest work in a long and fruitful career, Mia Doi Todd deserves it.


Born: June 30, 1975 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A singer and songwriter whose music embraces a rich variety of cultural and creative influences, Mia Doi Todd was born June 30, 1975 in Los Angeles, California. Todd grew up in a creative household; her father, Michael Todd, was a sculptor of note, and her mother, Kathryn Doi Todd, was an Associate Justice in the California Court of Appeals, as well as a patron of the arts who has helped bring traditional Japanese dance and theater troupes to Los Angeles. As a child, Todd became involved in theater...
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Gea, Mia Doi Todd
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