The serene sounds of 1960s-era folk and classical chamber music meet a naked, crystalline voice on guitarist/singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd’s ninth album, Cosmic Ocean Ship. Mia—a Yale-grad L.A. native whose songs reflect inspiration from her global travels and “explorations of forest, beach, jungle, desert, and city in Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, France, and India”—offers love songs to human paramours, nature, deities and the changing seasons. And her English and Spanish lyrics are generous with gentle, personal poetry.
If the sonic warmth of Cosmic Ocean Ship, produced by Jonathan Wilson, brings to mind the sound of a classic album, there’s a reason. Mia’s songs were captured on analog two-inch tape in an L.A. studio, a vintage recording process from the 20th century that imbues Mia’s music and voice (which is tonally similar to Joan Baez, but with a softer attack) with a fuller, rounder sound.
Mia’s interest in her mother’s Japanese ancestry led her to study Butoh—a rigorous dance movement technique—for a year abroad in Japan, before she embarked on her music career. She released two solo acoustic records in the early 2000s before signing with Columbia Records for a major label debut, The Golden State, as well as two critically well-received albums on the west coast indie label Plug Research. These included an album of remixes, La Ninja: Amor and Other Dreams of Manzinita, featuring the work of famed alternative hip-hop producer, Flying Lotus.
Mia eventually struck out on her own, working with acclaimed L.A.-based composer/arrangers Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood Ferguson on Gea, an album she put out on her own label, City Zen Records (hailed by LA Weekly as one of the “top 10 recordings of 2008”). Most recently, Mia toured as an opening act for poet and musician Saul Williams. A highlight from her 2011 contribution to the Red Hot Organization’s charitable album Red Hot +Rio is “Canto de Iemanjá,” a 1966 Afro samba originally written by Brazilian musician/composers Baden Powell and Vinícius de Moraes to honor Yemanja, the Yoruba goddess of the Ocean.
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