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Mia Doi Todd


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Indie folk pop

Status:

Most recent release, Floresta (2014)

See also:

Mia Doi Todd's site

Wikipedia's entry on Mia Doi Todd

Comparisons:

Joni Mitchell, Robin Holcomb

Covers/own material:

Own, occasional cover

General comments:

Mia is the daughter of an Irish-American sculptor (dad) and a Japanese-American judge (mom), is classically trained (and a Yale grad), and studied traditional dance in Japan.
     For some reason the singer she reminds me of most is Robin Holcomb, although they sound entirely different. They seem to have sort of the same quiet poetic vision and spaciousness in their music. (valrichardson@igc.org)

Comments about live performance:

When I had to think of the best concert of the year (1999), Mia Doi Todd's opening set immediately sprang to my mind. Perhaps it was because it was so unexpected, but she was such a clever songwriter and quiet but intense singer. It's been a while since I was so totally struck by a concert. Her CD Come Out Of Your Mine perfectly captured the thrill of the concert. An amazing find.
     I was not expecting to see Kristin Hersh and walk away saying I was more interested in the opening act, but that was definitely the case. She was very soft-spoken and self-effacing. She accompanied herself on guitar, and started in a very soft, breathy way. But her voice was so intense, and it slowly gained strength and confidence, until it was gracefully swooping into directions totally unexpected. The most obvious point of reference for me was Hugo Largo, though her voice is huskier than Mimi's, more like a touch of Sloan Wainwright thrown in. The songs were lyrically quite complex, twisting on themselves and their language. She clearly loves words, and they seem to be painted into the air in the same way that some of my favorite authors write. Her vocal control was really stunning. There was a song where she held out the final syllable of television for an excruciatingly long time. The song structures seem to be really different too, flowing in their own way in defiance of the typical verse/chorus/verse approach. The whole thing was an amazing experience, and probably the musical highlight of the week. (1999, neal)

I saw her open earlier in the tour and thought it was one of the most turgid sets I had ever witnessed. (1999, Neile)

for what it's worth, i was just about as stunned as Neal by the show; far less overwhelmed by the album [probably, from the timing, Come Out Of Your Mine] (which i thought was very nicely underproduced, but had too many of the songs that flirted with banality and cliche, and too few of the ones that really made my jaw drop. i like it, and want to hear more, but it wasn't the revelation the show was).
     also for what it's worth, what i liked: unconventional language, which didn't strike me as affected or self-conscious, just unconventional; a cheerful disregard for traditional verse/chorus/verse popsong structures; the contrast between her painfully shy stage demeanor and the confessional openness of the songs; her voice, which would have been dinstinguished by its precise diction, if not for its substantial range (which brought yma sumac to mind). (1/00, dmw@mwmw.com)

I had the pleasure of experiencing Mia Doi Todd here in Oslo yesterday. the programme said "Folk Implosion —Mia Doi Todd (US) + Alaska (US)". since I've never heard of Folk Implosion, I thought Mia was the headliner, and since headliners never enter the stage until 23 (at least on a Friday), I showed up at 22. horrors! Mia was already on the stage! the people at the door were amused by my misunderstanding—evidently Folk Implosion is led by some guy from Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr, bands which I at least have heard of, despite being of the female vocalist persuasion, whereas they seemed to think Mia was a nobody in Norway (they're probably right, although being on Sony at least means her newest album is readily available).
     so I missed out on Alaska (not to worry), and only caught twenty minutes of Mia. she was all alone with an acoustic guitar on the stage. most of the people in the club were way back, mostly out of sight and earshot during her subdued set. only about twenty people approached the stage and paid close attention. she did "88 Ways" and a couple of older songs (I presume) which I've never heard before, then she quietly started packing her guitar into its case. what an extraordinarily unassuming and humble person! of course, we called out and pleaded with her to do just one more. she looked up in surprise, pulled out her guitar and did "Hijikata". absolutely wonderful! (5/11/03, kjetilho@ifi.uio.no)

Recommended first album:

The Golden State

Recordings:


The Ewe & the Eye

Release info:

1997—Xmas Records/City Zen reissue

Availability:

See Mia Doi Todd's site

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Comments:

harder to find but worth the search. (jbehel@rush.edu)

The Golden State

Release info:

2002—Columbia Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Mia Doi Todd—nylon and acoustic guitars, piano, keyboards, loops, vocals

Guest artists:

Nels Cline—electric guitars
Mitchell Froom—keyboards (Chamberlain harpsichord, Chilton Talentmaker, clavinet, claviola, electric harmonium, field organ, Hammond chord organ, harmonium, Indian harmonium, orchestron, piano, prepared piano, Vox Continental Baroque organ)
Davey Faragher—electric bass
Jerry Marotta—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom, Yves Beauvais and Mia Doi Todd

Comments:

I don't know that I've ever written into Ecto to recommend a CD (I'm always on the receiving end of the recommendations here), but I'm enthusiastically recommending Mia Doi Todd's new release Golden State, which I guess is her first major label release.
     I watched a video bio clip. Her producer, Mitchell Froom, talked about wanting to keep the sound of the CD very modest. From what I've read, Mia has a multi-octave voice, but her vocal range on the CD is kept very narrow with one or two exceptions. Her voice is a very precise instrument and described as crystalline, although the sound is somewhat breathy and husky rather than tinkly. (valrichardson@igc.org)

Anyone who remembers Neal's and my opposing commentary on seeing Mia Doi Todd opening for Kristin Hersh a couple of years back (Neal found her fascinating and bought her current cd; I found her set interminable beyond belief and couldn't believe that anyone could like her music) will be surprised to learn that I bought The Golden State.
     I came across a sample from the album, "Digital", and really liked it and since a local store advertised her discs on sale I decided to pick it up. I've only had it a couple of days and haven't listened to it all that much.
     But I have listened to it enough to find that for me it is a really mixed experience. I love "Digital" but there are a couple of tracks that remind me of that horrible experience seeing her live. I think that for me she works best when she's doing songs with a quicker pace. The slower ones become bogged down for me by the slightly forced quality of her voice and make me rush to pull the disc out.
     I still love "Digital" though she's just too mournalful for my tastes. I know others love her. (Neile)

The album got some airplay on KCRW, and I liked it quite a bit. I'm not particularly fond of her earlier work, but I like what Mitchell Froom did with her sound. (ebv1@charter.net)

The second half of this CD fades into samey obscurity, but the first half, led by the irresistably infectious "Digital" and "88 Keys" is sublime. (meth@smoe.org)


Gea

Release info:

2008—City Zen Records/Kindred Spirits

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Mia Doi Todd fans

Group members:

Mia Doi Todd—nylon and acoustic guitar, harmonium, vocals

Guest artists:

Andres Renteria—hand drums, percussion
Joshua Abrams—electric bass, upright bass
Joshua Schwartz—electric bass, guitar
Miguel Atwood Ferguson—viola, violin
Myka Miller—oboe, flute, English horn
Jennifer Stevenson—clarinet
Sarah Schoenbeck—bassoon
Jennifer Scott—flute
Danielle Ondarza—French horn
David Goya—trombone
Jason Garner—trumpet
Ginger Murphy—cello

Produced by:

Carlos Nino, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Mia Doi Todd

Comments:

Mia Doi Todd had an excellent release with The Golden State in 2002, and I'm afraid it may end there. With Gea, I'm ready to call it quits. Maybe with the right music her voice would sound better, but it's all so dreary! Dreary music, and her heavy, monotone voice just drags me down. The songs aren't melodic at all. For instance, I can't think for the life of me why I would say "Oh, I want to listen to 'Kokoro'! That's such a great track!" Sorry, Mia. (lasherboy@gmail.com)

La Ninja: Amor and other dreams of Manzanita

Release info:

2006—Plug Research Records—PLG67CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Mia Doi Todd

Guest artists:

Greg Malone—bass
Rob Campanella—guitar, mandolin
Andres Renteria—drums (3, 5)
Gustav Ejstes—organ
Reine Fiske—electric guitar
Fredrik Björling—drums

Produced by:

Mia Doi Todd

Comments:

This is an album of remixes, but it's the only album of Mia's I've heard. Some really interesting material here, including "Kokoro," "What If We Do? (Nobody Remix)," and the best cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" I've ever heard. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2016-04-03 18:40:16.
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