Mia Doi Todd's 10th Album 'Floresta' Coming Soon
Mia Doi Todd's latest offering, Floresta - her 10th album -- grew from a seed. It was Brazilian music! So many forests grew, and flowers bloomed, and humankind lived and loved and despaired.
In March of 2014, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd spent ten days at the beautiful Estúdio El Rocha in São Paulo, Brazil and recorded an album of her favorite Brazilian songs - some famous, some obscure - all about nature. The album is entitled "Floresta," or Forest in Portuguese, and is being released on Mia's label, City Zen Records, on September 16th of this year. The album features an all Brazilian band: Fabiano do Nascimento on seven-string nylon guitar, Maurício Takara and Rogério Martins on percussion, and Meno del Picchia on bass. I'm hoping you'll consider covering this powerful artist via feature or album review. Please let me know if you need the music. I'm including another sampling of some of the coverage of her Cosmic Ocean Ship album of a few years ago.
American singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd's ninth album Cosmic Ocean Ship is the clear result of a lot of traveling and thinking. And it might just set your mind to wander. Todd has been soaking up sounds throughout Latin America and having clear-eyed confrontations with human intimacy, global warming, and other unavoidable realities. And now she's documented it all in a kind of sun-soaked musical travel journal - recorded the analog way for extra warmth. Recording on tape was a good choice for her mellow, earthy soprano and these ten open-hearted songs about being in love, being alone, and being in motion.
She plays classical nylon-string guitar, ukulele, the lute-like tamboura and the cavaquinho - a small four stringed instrument somewhere between a ukulele and a guitar. She brings a few other players aboard to provide even more strings a vast array of percussion instruments too. The variety of strummed and plucked things makes for especially effervescent music - light as the air but not the least bit fluffy.
The Latin influence becomes more pronounced as Cosmic Ocean Ship progresses. "Paraty" opens the album with a gentle bossa nova rhythm, but the music takes a detour through Joni Mitchell-like territory for songs like "My Baby Lives in Paris." The tension she evokes with her breathy vocals on "La Havana" midway through the album brings things back to a more equatorial consciousness. Then comes her version of Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell's "Canto de Iemanjá." It's a samba sung to the goddess of the ocean and in Todd's hands it is a droning psychedelic masterpiece and the album's mystical heart. The final track is a fragile and spare cover of "Gracias a la Vida" by Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra.
There aren't many voices like Mia Doi Todd in music today, or songwriters with her chops. It's wonderful to hear her continue to explore new territory and write such reflective and profound music. Odds are you haven't heard anything like this recently.
Beverly Bryan/blog.mtviggy.com 5/01
Cosmic Ocean Ship, Mia Doi Todd's ninth album, is an aural travelogue that reflects her inner and geographical journeys, evoking the spirit of summertime no matter what musical atmosphere she employs in order to do so. The set contains eight originals and a pair of expertly chosen covers that touch on love, its loss, renewal, leavings, and arrivals; it was released on Todd's City Zen imprint, and produced by multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Wilson, with a small group of players. Todd uses her voice, guitars, ukulele, percussion, and carvaquinho to explore Latin, Brazilian, and her own Los Angeles brand of alt-folk. The Brazilian influence makes itself felt on album opener "Paraty," named for the old colonial port town three hours south of Rio. Todd's nylon-string guitar, Gabe Noel's bass, and Andres Renteria's hand percussion introduce this gorgeous bossa that transforms itself seamlessly into a jazzy samba after the first two verses when Wilson's electric guitar and a drum kit are layered into the mix. Todd sings in a breezy, sensual voice of the pleasures of the town's lazy, summery atmosphere. "My Baby Lives in Paris" harks back to Todd's longtime fascination with Joni Mitchell. While not as rhythmically fluid as one of Mitchell's tunes, the lyrics that touch on time, place, and metaphors of imprinted emotional memory are saturated with her influence. The lithe Latin rhythms of "Under the Sun" are countered by Todd's open, folksy vocal, which suggests Sandy Denny in her phrasing. "Summer Lover," in waltz time, is reminiscent of the Laurel Canyon sound of the early '70s, and in the piano, guitars, basslines, and shimmering drums, one can hear the trace of a Mitchell arrangement. The reading ofBaden Powell's classic "Canto de Lemanjá" is introduced by Todd's voice in layered echoes, before her nylon-string guitar enters, augmented by bowed cello, intermittent percussion, and spacy reverb. She does a provocative reading of the tune that breaks open into a psychedelic samba. The set closes with Violeta Parra's "Gracias a la Vida," a sparse, haunting number sung in Spanish, accompanied by carvaquinho and percussion accentuating Todd's mournful, moving vocal. Cosmic Ocean Ship is Todd's most "exotic" recording, but it's easily one of her most ambitious, focused, and satisfying as well.
Mia Doi Todd has a calming, ethereal presence that imbues her music with an unruffled serenity-a rare commodity in the world of popular music. Her songs are mostly acoustic and conjure up an inner world that seems stress-free and steeped in a quest for all that's good and positive. She has a rich, beautiful voice that can easily slip from warm, round honey-drenched tones to a high, expressive treble that's almost out of the range of human hearing. Joni Mitchell, one of Todd's major vocal influences, does the same thing, but Todd's vocal inflections seem more natural than Mitchell's.
On Todd's new album, Cosmic Ocean Ship, "Paraty" kicks thing off with a subtle bossa nova pulse generated by Gabe Noel's deep acoustic bass line and Andres Renteria's minimal congas. Todd delivers a less-is-more vocal playing with the lyric's open vowel sounds to stretch words into musical phrases that complement the song's smooth rhythm. "My Baby Lives in Paris" is a sensual bluesy love song that celebrates physical love with a quiet elegance intensified by Todd's murmured vocal. The lush, moody "La Havana" blends acoustic guitar, cello, minimal bass, late-night piano tinkling, and a cryptic lyric to portray the pleasures of love. Todd sings softly and plays with the phrasing until words lose their literal meaning to become another musical element of the arrangement.
The most energetic track is "Canto de Iemanja", a cover of the Baden Powell/Vinicius de Moraes hymn to Iemanja, the Orisha of the sea and the patron of fishermen. It closes with Jonathan Wilson's short psychedelic guitar freak-out and some nicely layered percussion tracks...
Cosmic Ocean Ship is primarily a vocal album and showcases Todd's relaxed singing and her poetic way with a lyric. The other musicians are all solid players, but they stay in the background, leaving the spotlight on Todd's inviting voice and charisma.
J Poet/Crawdaddy.com 5/19
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Todd sings a gracefully conceived form of the art-folk genre. Hers is joltingly intimate song craft at times, gingerly plucked on acoustic guitar and sung pristinely in a voice taking a defiant stand for joy, love and enlightenment. She's culled this sonic point of view from an intriguing range of musics - her new album Cosmic Ocean Ship includes covers of "Gracias a la Vida" by Chilean folk icon Violeta Parra and "Canto de Iemanjá," the Afro-samba composed by Baden Powell and Vinícius de Moraes. She continually redefines her repertoire in collaborations with many of the most forward-looking thinkers/players from Los Angeles' electronic scene, a group that includes tonight's co-stars, Teebs and Asura.
John Payne/LA Weekly 5/12
For the 9th release in what's becoming an epic release history, Mia Doi Todd has broken her own explorational tradition for a unified disc that often sings with twists on old south of the border sophistications while luxuriating in balmily soporific hedonism. Starting in Paraty, there's always at least a trace of the exotic and sometimes a seductive bossa/samba feel to things, alongside the folky, wispy, fairytale, lullaby embroidery of lacy delicacy so frequently normal to the vocalist's wont. The third cut, Under the Sun, has classic (or standard) written all over it. A stunningly Drake-ian cut, it could have been a track left off Nick's landmark Five Leaves Left release. Beyond doubt, as much as Todd's work has been heretofore interesting, whimsical, and multisensorial, with Cosmic Ocean Ship she has reached a new level of surprising maturity and brought back the feel of Joni Mitchell's Blue period, albeit vastly more soporific and blended with Astrud Gilberto.
The torpor and sensuality of Cosmic in fact have nothing at all to do with sidereal concerns and everything to do with harmonies of terra firma in an Ibiza styled layback, a paradisiacal place of soma and song. This is beautifully maintained throughout the CD, not unmixed with wistfulness and infusions of regret, as in The Rising Tide and elsewhere. Todd has been a darling of the alt-radio doyens, and deservedly so, but this arresting disc should bring her straight up into the mainstream, and if DownBeat magazine doesn't take a deep shine to her now...well then, the editorial staff is as provincial as I've long thought it had turned (sigh!). In fact, underscoring the transition of the chanteuse, Howlin' Wuelf Media has issued a very well composed promo sheet sporting an exotic snap of Todd a la Avedon or Skrebneski by way of Cleopatra (and you're going to have to know your ne plus ultra photo-portraitists to follow that allusional trail, Bunky), a particularly smart move, as Cosmic Ocean Ship should do for the singer what their respective break-out discs did for Sade and Bjork.
Mark Tucker/AcousticMusic.com 4/26