With Thao holstering a can of spray paint, and Mirah wielding knitting needles, they don't exactly symbolize the perfect couple. But when they first shared the stage, in 2010 at the San Francisco Noise Pop Fest, they proved that harmonization is't embedded in ideology. This performance was followed by a tour compiled of rotating set lists of both artists' existing songs. Thao would accompany Mirah's tracks with backup vocals, guitar, banjo, and bongos and the favors were returned. With tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus as their producing muse, the duo has released their first full-length, conveniently titled, Thao & Mirah
Their musical personas certainly factor into their differences. Thao, being the leader of the folk-rock Get Down Stay Down, employs the badass courage that's vital when fronting a two-thirds-male rock group. Mirah, however, embodies a gentle spirit, one who would sweep up the remains of Thao's broken bottles. But as so many movies have told us, it's the unlikeliest of friends who discover a deeper connection, and in Thao & Mirah's case, it's their appreciation of charming melody.
If it didn't open Thao & Mirah
, "Eleven" would fuse perfectly within producer and contributor Merrill Garbus's latest tUnE-yArDs creation w h o k i l l
. It surges with tribal thuds and claps as Thao's lustful alto intermingles with Mirah's soothing falsetto, all of this, is performed atop Garbus' rusty bellows.
As Garbus' clamorous identity in "Eleven" diminishes, the album's tracks alternate between Thao & Mirah's contrasting vibes. Most often, a single vocalist is prominent, while the other assists in chorus. Thao's "Teeth" could be considered the album's highlight as she laments in her sultry tones amongst chilling, choral "Oooh's". Its glimmering acoustic guitar is built upon the archetypal tUnE-yArDs percussive claps and snaps. Not until "How Dare You" does the back-and-forth singing become a song"s theme. In it, Thao & Mirah compete in banter until they agree in beautiful harmony.
Prominent in many tracks is the inclusion of instrumentation that is outside of Garbus' control. In Mirah-led track, "Rubies And Rocks", free styling trumpets reminiscently dance to the orchestrations of Sufjan Stevens' Illinois
. The closing track, "Squareneck", is the best example of the two contrasting stylists intermingling to perfection. Although Mirah leads vocally, Thao exists in her gripping slide guitar. The previous tracks of shared vocal responsibilities were outside either artist's musical realms. This closing track partners Mirah's iconic voice with Thao's emblematic folk-rock style.
The rotation of vocal roles throughout Thao & Mirah
make it an album that will satisfy fans of multiple musical dimensions. Whether you enjoy soft and sensual Mirah, or rowdily pleasing Thao, something, somewhere in the album will grab your attention. Unfortunately, what was expected from their fusion's first full-length was only displayed in "Eleven" and "Squareneck".
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Thao with The Get Down Stay Down Live at First Unitarian Church