Mirah

Advisory Committee

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AllMusic Review by

Mirah's You Think It's Like This But It's Really Like This, was a sweet, sensitive collection of folky indie pop, but her follow-up, Advisory Committee, is such a stunning leap forward that it feels like a true introduction to her music. The album retains some of the homespun lo-fi charm of You Think It's Like This..., but Advisory Committee is also dramatic, even theatrical, as on the stunning first track, "Cold Cold Water." A sweeping spaghetti Western of a song, its swelling strings, galloping percussion, and haunting vocals portray being in love as a life-or-death situation. Only Björk does this type of drama as well, and a large part of the song's success is due to Phil Elvrum's production. Though he and Mirah have collaborated before on Elvrum's Microphones albums, on Advisory Committee their styles complement each other perfectly: His unique, often trippy production techniques give her gorgeous, guileless voice and imaginative songwriting equally creative settings. While "Cold Cold Water" is the album's obvious standout, Advisory Committee features more than a handful of remarkable songs, not the least of which is the epic title track, a virtual rock opera that reclaims the steel drums as a rock instrument. "Mt. St. Helens," which likens the destructive force of a breakup to the famous volcano, begins as a simple folk song before building to a violently emotional climax; "The Garden" uses just an ominous bassline, bludgeoning percussion, and Mirah's commanding vocals to fuse anger, sadness, and love into one raw, simple yet complex emotion. Even Advisory Committee's less ambitious moments are surprising, whether it's the unabashedly sexy gypsy love song "Light the Match" or the seemingly lighthearted slice of Olympia lo-fi new wave, "Recommendation." Most impressively, the many stylistic shifts, both from song to song and within each song, never sound forced; they're more like forces of nature coursing through the album. Indeed, Mirah's songs deal with elemental themes -- love, sex, heat, cold, fire, and water -- in highly artistic and occasionally spiritual terms that are poetic but never pretentious. A tour de force, Advisory Committee packs several albums' worth of emotion, beauty, and creativity into a concise, brilliant package.

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