On her first three albums, LA’s Mia Doi Todd captured my attention with just voice and guitar, and her cryptic lyrics and mannered singing cast a spell on me even when I wasn’t quite sure what she was singing about. On her recent major-label debut, The Golden State (Columbia), producer Mitchell Froom adds a bunch of rare vintage keyboards (Chamberlin harpsichord, Claviola, and Orchestron among them), some distant-sounding drums, and the weightless electric guitar of Nels Cline to Todd’s basic sound, and her appealingly alien worldview doesn’t seem so alien anymore. It’s not that she’s suddenly writing more obvious lyrics–in fact, a bunch of these songs have already appeared on her earlier discs–but Froom’s arrangements, which mesh perfectly with Todd’s Zen-like state of contemplation, seem to bring her thoughts closer to the surface. Her voice sounds warmer and more vulnerable than before, though her precise intonation and austere phrasing still hark back to classic British folksinging. Most of her lyrics make her sound as if she’s musing out loud–on “Autumn,” a meditation on personal development, she sings “The leaves let go, so let them go” in a voice of such calm acceptance that the line acquires surprising poignancy. And though it would be nice to hear some more new songs from her, I’m not really complaining–these versions do bring a new clarity to the material. For this gig Todd will perform solo, accompanying herself on guitar and piano. Folk Implosion headlines. Thursday, March 13, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sasha Eisenman.