Mia Doi Todd – Gea (City Zen Records )

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Like a swatch cut from a cloth left behind by Nick Drake or the Fairport Convention, Mia Doi Todd’s sublime new album is that inevitable breeze blown in from the underappreciated British folk scene of the 70’s. There is a dark intensity that flows over the ten songs, and on the 10 minute epic opener “River of Life” Todd’s shimmering voice, think a darker Sandy Denny, sails patiently towards some kind of peaceful oasis hidden behind an uncanny “Pink Moon” era guitar shadow. This record is so eerily reminiscent that it is astounding to imagine it being written today.

Like the original brit-folk music that took a Volkswagen commercial twenty-five years later to revive, Todd’s art is so subtle and spare that it will hard for this to appear on today’s music radar directed by myspace and iTunes compasses. But the orchestral, often Baroque, intonations of “Gea” represents what I hope will be a rival in musical songwriting all but abandoned for electronic beats and studio bells and whistles.

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Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (Sub Pop)

band-of.jpgIf this is still a small largely unheard indie record in six months then something has gone horribly wrong. Looking more like ZZ Top meeting up at a Sturgis Harley rally, singer Ben Bridwell has crafted one of the most beautiful rock records in a decade. Think Radiohead “The Bends” with its all the ambition and none of the alienation.

His bushy beard, and heavily inked arms make you think scary headbanger, not dreamy indie guy, but alas this is a G rated rock record for hipsters, and maybe even their kids. These songs glide smoothly on a bed of effortlessness, clouds drifting over a melodic sea, all the while Bridwell’s vocals alternating between the ethereal on “No One’s Gonna Love You” to the sublime on “Detlef Schrempf.”

Like their name, this band paints the picture of open spaces, big skies, and fond memories. Like the Frames, this is band who could easily seduce a Coldplay type audience, but until then this is a wondeeful secret.

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