Dusted Reviews

Mirah - Share This Place: Stories and Observations

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Mirah

Album: Share This Place: Stories and Observations

Label: K

Review date: Aug. 31, 2007

Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn is one of the few singer-songwriters who manage to grow both musically and lyrically from album to album. Her first solo effort, You Think Its Like This But Its Really Like This, was composed of promising but overly twee folk songs that focused on the minutiae of relationships. Mirah’s stand-out second album, Advisory Committee, was reminiscent of a fantasy bildungsroman, with Mirah cast as the indomitable, charmingly naive heroine who learned to navigate the rocky, expansive and enticing terrain of Elvrum’s production in songs like “Mt. Saint Helens” and “Cold, Cold Water.” (It's no wonder that Mirah’s music was beloved by deep-feeling teen girls of the indie persuasion.) Mirah traded in that youthful vigor for maturity on her third album, C’mon Miracle. It provided a less idealistic take on the themes of Advisory Committee, as evidenced in the shift from the activist self-aggrandizement of “Monument” to the specific grievances of “Israel” and the quiet entreaty of “Nobody Has to Stay.” C’mon Miracle’s more considered demeanor precluded the sense of epic tension between woman and her environment, making it an album to be enjoyed rather than experienced.

Mirah’s new album on K records, Share This Place: Stories and Observations (with Spectratone International backing her up), is more coherent and intellectually stimulating than any of her previous solo efforts. Commissioned by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the Seattle International Children's Festival, each song has an accompanying short film by stop-motion animator Britta Johnson. The arrangements use more instruments and a broader range of influences, from the expected klezmer and indie rock to European and Mediterranean folk. The majority of the songs are inspired by the writings of Jean Henri Fabre, the 19th century entomologist. Fabre wrote children’s stories about insects, and Mirah has mined his work describing insect development and intraspecies relations for vignettes that speak to human behavior.

The lyrics on Share This Place are dense with difficult scientific terminology, but Mirah manages to fit three- and four-syllable words into her songs without forcing the rhythm. In the vast majority of tracks, Mirah takes on the voice of a specific species of insect and guides us through its world. The whirling (dare I say buzzing) musical arrangements of “Supper,” “My Prize,” and Credo Cigalia” mirror the narrative action of Mirah’s lyrics admirably. “Community” analyzes human behavior from a colonial insect’s point of view in a way that is clever without being too cute, and precisely plucked strings nicely compliment the speakers' uniformity of mind. With few exceptions, the songs sound like excerpts from a musical charade staged for 19th century gentry at great expense, the kind of entertainment meant to be discussed repeatedly over the course of a long stay at some manor in the country.

I happened to see Mirah play live just after the release of C’mon Miracle. The small basement was packed with college students, most of them underclassmen. Mirah took to the small stage and began leading what felt like a revival. Though at least half the crowd either listened quietly or continued conversations, a core group of about 20 girls, most of them barely legal, gathered the front of the stage. Mirah’s breathy Lolita voice held the rapt attention of her young female admirers, who swayed and sang along to the music, eyes closed, faces contorted with emotion. Their favorites by far came from Advisory Committee. The later songs elicited much less face scrunching and fewer sympathetic wails.

The same may well be said about Share This Place. While its arrangements set a new standard for Mirah the musician, its anachronism and intricacy inspires too much discussion, too little devotion.

By Malini Sridharan

Other Reviews of Mirah

Advisory Committee

C'mon Miracle


Read More

View all articles by Malini Sridharan

Find out more about K

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.