From the pondering chords at the beginning of the first track to the refrain of the last, Mia Doi Todd’s latest recording, Manzanita is a sonic treat meant to be savored over and over again.
Her contralto voice lilts through melodic soundscapes filled with delicate percussion and mellow electric and acoustic guitars. Occasionally, the tempo picks up into a mildly retro-60s groove, such as on the two-ships-passing-in-the-night song, “The Last Night of Winter.”
Todd is a poet, as well as a stunning vocalist. Her lyrics speak of love and politics in artfully written phrases and word pictures. She is part philosopher, part lover and part prophet. In “The Way,” she warns of the impending Armageddon of capitalism:
We all know they’ve got it fixed
We’re junking bonds; we’re dropping
bombs we’ve made by guzzling gasoline.
Public confidence is shaken
like the apple from the tree.
I think this is the first time I have heard someone use the phrase “politico-economics” in a song.
The second verse of “My Room Is White” made me catch my breath when I first heard it:
The tide comes in, and we’re caught
by the rocks and the wetness neverendless.
We kiss for the first time, our lips and tongues
tied in fitness, infiniteness.
Then the ocean pulls back somehow,
to reveal a crowd of uncertainty.
The reggae-inspired “Casa Nova” is also one of my favorites from this recording. The musical hook is catchy and the “I’m over you and moving on” message in the lyrics has a universal appeal.
The flamenco-flavored “Tongue-tied” also stands out. Truly, this CD contains no duds and can be played on repeat without becoming tiresome.