By Justin Beland
Mirah has come a long way since the soft ukulele riff that begins “Million Miles,” the lead-off track to her stellar 2000 debut record You Think It’s Like This, But Really It’s Like This. That album’s music, and the odd cover art depicting its singer wearing massive goggles and barking into a walkie-talkie, showed an artist who was playful, but could also break your heart with an appropriately placed finger pluck or turn of phrase.
Twelve years later Mirah has four more solo albums and a number of EPs under her belt, as well as Thao and Mirah, her Merrill Garbus-produced duet with Falls Church’s own Thao Nguyen. The sense of humor is still there (for example 2007’s Share This Place was an album primarily about insects), but so is a considerably stronger knowledge of song craft. The massive IMAX-level scope of songs like “Cold Cold Water” and “Jerusalem” is matched by the sly silliness of songs like “Dreamboat” from 2008’s The Old Days Feeling (an album that features two song titles with exclamation points and one with a question mark ). If attempted by a lesser artist, this Liz Phair-esque dichotomy of baring-it-all anthems and chuckle-inducing lyrics could seem mismatched at best, silly at worst. But rather than making her seem uneven, Mirah’s playful inventiveness almost gives the impression that she’s writing songs this good without taking herself too seriously, or for that matter even trying too hard.
It’s a feeling that comes across in her live performances as well. Her meticulously crafted music and terse lyrics coupled with her humorous asides – such as wondering aloud if she remembered to put on a bra, or playing patty cake with her drummer as a form of percussion – are the products of a woman leaving it all on the stage, but having a good time while doing it. She is a spectacular and gifted live performer.
Mirah couldn’t have picked a better opening act than Chapel Hill’s. In addition to the similar name, Mount Moriah vocalist Heather McEntire shares Mirah’s cutting wit and stunning vocal abilities. If their debut album on Merge Records is any indication, Mouth Moriah will provide the perfect introduction to a great night of music.
Grab tickets to Mirah with Mount Moriah at Rock and Roll Hotel in D.C. Wednesday, November 14th