Meiko

Meiko

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What are they putting into the water at the Hotel Café? Meiko is yet another hyper-talented musician to cut her teeth on the L.A. venue's stage, which previously helped launch artists like Priscilla Ahn, Cary Brothers, and Ingrid Michaelson. Although armed with the requisite trappings of a singer/songwriter -- fingerplucked guitar chords, lovelorn lyrics, and a chic café vibe -- Meiko brings something different to the coffee table, mixing wistful pop/rock tunes with toy pianos, muted trumpet solos, and the occasional programmed drumbeat. Her vocals take the spotlight on nearly every number, alternating between raspy whispers and a strong, radio-ready belt. There's a Southern accent buried somewhere in there, too -- a product of her childhood spent in rural Georgia -- but Meiko creates her own geography with songs about low-rent apartments, Hawaii, and lovers' arms. Breezy handclaps and a singalong chorus turn "Boys with Girlfriends" into the album's most commercial track, yet Meiko's real strength lies in the less conventional numbers: "Reason to Love You," which features a cooing, hiccupping chorus; "Piano Song," an indie pop exercise in cuteness; and "Hiding," where minor-key progressions and a lone keyboard riff combine to form a rainy day ballad. Perhaps most impressive is "Said and Done," a nocturnal song that pairs Meiko's vocals with the orchestration of a John Alton film noir. When Meiko audibly exhales during the chorus, her breath sounds like a snare hit, and it's nuances like that -- smart, slyly inconspicuous tricks -- that elevate her beyond the realm of ordinary songwriters. [Lucky Ear released a similar version of this album in 2007. However, this reissue features remastered tracks, new mixing, several re-recorded songs, and the brand-new single "Boys with Girlfriends."]

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