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Mia Doi Todd – Music Life Review

A global love letter to creativity from all mothers.

Sounds like…

A rich and expansive global jazz rock soundtrack.

The review

Twelve albums in and nothing seems to slow Mia Doi Todd down. For ‘Music Life’, Mia returns to composing and performing after a couple of multilingual cover albums. She also expands her musical sound from her razor-sharp acoustic guitar and voice to a lush cinematic jazz-rock hybrid. Musicians and creatives will also get an extra kick out of ‘Music Life’ too. It is all about the creative process as a human and as a creator.

Jeff Parker and Money Mark join as guests for the expansive and lightly psychedelic jazz-rock title track opener. The pianos, drums and guitars all work in harmony as Mia Doi Todd wishes every day was a weekend and the joys of burning the creative candle at both ends. Often Todd’s voice doesn’t get the recognition it deserves as she sings with such angelic charm but here, the layers of vocals have some explosive moments. Declaring love for her child and her craft, it is a raft ride of emotions and joy. ‘Take Me to the Mountain’ brings in expressive string and wind instruments to the mix as Mia sings of yearning for breathing space. Here, the music is like a curling serpent and a mirage on a desert journey. Lyrically it ties to the mythology of the healing powers of nature. The album refers to the global position of the mother of creation and I love the duality that Mia uses in scaling it from art to her family to the world.

picture of Mia Doi Todd
Mia Doi Todd

Light South American folk tones take over the delicate track ‘My Fisherman’. It would be a track that would fit perfectly on Mia’s 2011 classic ‘Cosmic Ocean Ship’ with its fingered guitar, hand percussion and ethereal vocals. Moving fully into bossa nova and gentle samba vibes, ‘Little Bird’ is an eight-minute bask in the sun. With guests Fabiano de Nascimento and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, the track is a bitter-sweet sunset. The guitar lilts. The tuned percussion is warm to the ear and lets Todd’s voice command you with her story. It is a relaxing ear milk for the soul.

Switching gears entirely, Mia Doi Todd takes us east with ‘Mohinder and the Maharani’. Here, lush strings interplay with rolling bass and guitars to create a cross between a Bollywood and a western. The jazzy percussion and guitars offer the western side whereas the melodies themselves are pure eastern dreams. It is a unique track on the album and possibly my favourite for a fun dance to – with a surprise tempo shift in the outro. Reggae takes centre stage next. The beautiful ballad ‘If I Don’t Have You’ is as if reggae and folk had a baby as its gentle and delicate but with a definite rhythm too. Laraaji joins Mia for the luscious ‘Wainiha Valley’. Here, the music evokes a paradise of harps, udu pots and double bass riffs. As the guitars, flutes and strings seep in, everything in the valley is smiling. The best way I can describe the music is like its one of those 1970’s mermaid visions where someone has smeared grease on the screen. Mia Doi Todd has the perfect voice for this kind of music too – I was very chilled by the song’s conclusion.

The album closes with ‘Daughter of Hope’, a close to ten-minute finale. Starting out with piano and voice, this track is Mia’s prayer for the future. Probably a selection of creative cliff notes for her daughter, it is a beautiful piece that grows and expands. In comes bass, drums, trumpets and a choir. In what is a very personal album, this is the most personal track on it. It is also a complete contrast to some of Mia’s earlier work, where her music felt like intimate demos. This is some of the grandest work she has ever created. It also some of her best. ‘Music Life’ is the perfect place to start with Mia Doi Todd’s extensive catalogue too. You can hear a lot of her past here but it doesn’t tread old ground. That’s because everything is bigger, richer, fuller and yet just as personable. I wonder how much of an influence writing for an adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ a few years earlier has shaped this album? Either way, this is some of her best work and I encourage you to seek it out and enjoy it.

Recommended track: Music Life

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Mia Doi Todd - Music Life

9

9.0/10

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