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Musical Pairings: Thao & Mirah – Thao & Mirah

In case you’ve ever wondered, Kasey and I do not have the exact same tastes in music. We have overlapping tastes in music, but there are some things we don’t agree on. For example, Kasey can’t stand Radiohead (my favorite band), and although she doesn’t “dislike them” she thinks The National are too depressing (my second favorite band). Conversely, when she is commuting to work, at the gym or at any distance over 500 yards away from me, she’ll occasionally listen to radio stations that feature DJ remixes of pop songs that would make me uncontrollably shudder and sneer. But more often than not we agree on most music. For example, we both love Sufjan Stevens, Typhoon, Iron & Wine, Cults, M.I.A., Yeasayer, the Decemberists, etc.  We both also love Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and Mirah – so you can imagine how happy we were to discover that they were doing an album together.  And I’m even happier to report that the collaboration is great.

The album opens with the clattering and percussive “Eleven”, a track that not only marries Thao and Mirah’s distinctive voices and songwriting, but also folds Merrill Garbus (a.k.a. tUnE-yArDs) into the mix.  Of all of the tracks on the album it certainly stands out as the most unlike anything either Mirah and Thao have ever written before – and I’d guess that is a result of Garbus’ contributions.  If for any reason this track isn’t your cup of tea, don’t fret: the better portion of the album doesn’t stray quite as far from the prior work of either songwriter. For example, the second track, “Folks,” is clearly a Thao track – and not just because of the vocals, but also because of the distinctive songwriting.  Similarly, the track “Little Cup” sounds to me like it is clearly a song penned by Mirah.  And on other tracks, the album bears fruit that sounds exactly like the collaboration fans of both artists are probably hoping for.  “Rubies and Rocks”, for example, falls a little less clearly into one songwriter’s camp or the other, and is another highlight for me, boasting smooth horns, a slinking bassline, light rattling percussion and Mirah’s beautiful vocals.  As does the fantastic “How Dare You” and the warbly and fun “Likable Man.”  The track “Teeth” is a catchy Thao number featuring distant, organic percussion (snaps, claps, etc.) and bright harmonies and nimble acoustic guitar.  “Spaced Out Orbit” is a stunning highlight on the album with Mirah lyrically channeling a Ziggy Stardust Bowie-vibe and gorgeous acoustic-guitar anchored space jam: “They say now take all of your dust, all your love and trust, we’re sending you upon your final mission, and then I found myself in orbit, and the last thing I observed, the last words that I heard were ‘Don’t forget to send in your transmission, we expect you to report on your condition.’  Then I saw something that resembled that place where we were together.”

I’ve chosen this album to pair with Kasey’s Buttered Sea Bass and Clams in Chickpea Broth recipe.  It was tremendously delicious.  One of my favorite recipes we have recently prepared.  Kasey described the dish as one that “looks beautifully effortless, earthy and warm.”  The same could be said for Thao and Mirah’s album.  They both make writing beautiful, evocative music sound so easy, and as a result Thao and Mirah sounds like it was probably as much fun to write and record as it sounds to listen to.  The album is scheduled for an April 26 release date.  Until then, if you are anxious for more from the duo, check out the videos and pics we took when they performed together nearly a year ago for Noise Pop 2010 (link).

Thao & Mirah – Eleven (feat. tUnE-yArDs)

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Posted by Matthew Hickey


Matthew is the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. He’s addicted to vinyl records, pour over coffee, craft beer, small batch bourbon, and pan roasting pork chops.

  • Brian

    My fiance and I have pretty identical music tastes but her increasingly busy life means she has less time to explore new music in the same way that my computer based job allows me to. I find her leaning on pop radio more often than she used to and sometimes when I catch her singing along to certain songs I think “What’s happening to you?”.

    I recently bought Destroyers new album kaputt, and she and I were both really digging it last weekend while we were doing some wedding prep. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that a certain piece of music is having the same impact on the person you love as it is you.

    I love the premise and setup of this review and what this song proves (like many others) is that the problem with mainstream pop isn’t that it’s “pop”. The problem is that someone decided to make the idea of what pop could be so narrow and frustratingly juvenile.

  • Matthew

    Brian : I totally agree with your comments regarding pop music. I have nothing against pop music in general. In fact, most of my favorite music is “pop” music. I just hate how limited and derivative most contemporary mainstream pop music is.

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