Monday, March 10, 2014

Album Review: Mideau, Mideau

Libbie and Spencer, acting like they are the same height

This week, I'm doing something that I haven't done before on this blog: review an album that hasn't been released nationally yet. This is possible because I got an advanced copy from one of the members of the group, who I know (full disclosure).

Mideau is a Utah-based electro-pop duo that has been doing live shows for a while now, but this album is their first. The two musicians that make up Mideau, Libbie Linton and Spencer Harrison, co-write their music and switch back and forth between many instruments. You can listen to an NPR feature on Mideau here.

Texture party, and everyone's invited

Their eponymous album, though mostly subdued from start to finish, rewards with repeated listenings. Though the words are sometimes oblique, the production detail is striking. The varied, rich textures of "Maude" are a microcosm of the album—Mideau is never happy to sit on one groove for long, instead changing up the timbre and texture from one moment to the next. Yet, the songs are still unified. Because of this rapid change, it's just not possible to get the feel of a song in the first few seconds in this album, which sets Mideau apart from many other groups, especially in electronica. Even the second-tier songs have rewarding moments. The highlight of the album is "Opelika". It's probably the most forward-moving, energetic song here, and features a well-placed ukulele. It also makes the best use of both a drop return to a catchy chorus and the interaction between Mideau's two vocalists. My second favorite would probably be "There, There", which I think has the least opaque and most elegant of the lyrics on the album. It's harmonic palate reminds me of classic Simon and Garfunkel.

It's not a perfect album: I wish Linton had a little more variety in her vocal style—it would be nice to hear some in-your-face singing to contrast her predominant carefully controlled and conditioned sound. Also, for my taste, some of the songs end a bit suddenly. One song, "Feet to the Sun" may have the most understandable controlling metaphor, but the music uncharacteristically fails to keep my attention as the song progresses. 

Coming soon, but playing now

While the album has not been widely released, you can check out the Way with Words EP on iTunes, which features some of the tracks (though none of the specific tracks I mention here, actually). Also, this week the band is making their debut at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival, which takes place in Austin, Texas March 11-16. If you are somehow lucky enough to be at that famously large and expensive festival, I would endorse seeing them.

Have any of you heard Mideau live? What do you think?

Vocab: eponymous, lyrics, harmonic, timbre, texture

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