Thao & Mirah Thao & Mirah
Thao Nguyen and Mirah both have voices that can bring an easygoing finish to painful subject matter, or intrigue to outwardly lighthearted songs. They also share a subtle disregard for the conventions of singer-songwriter records, as their first LP as a duo shows in the Afrobeat brass of “Rubies And Rocks” and the polished “Space Oddity” treatment of “Spaced Out Orbit.” Though they thrive on moments where sadness meets levity, and songcraft meets eccentricity, Thao & Mirah doesn’t always find them working in sync. Mirah gets hung up on making her vocals sound plump and stately on “Little Cup” and “Hallelujah”—though these songs are convincingly somber, Thao pulls that mood off better on “Teeth,” retaining the raggedy edges and stray whispers of her vocals. Even on the more upbeat numbers, Mirah’s gentle acoustic playing on “Sugar And Plastic” can’t help but feel staid next to Thao’s “Likable Man,” which is framed around near-crude plonks of guitar and the line “put your hands down your pants.” But when they flirt back and forth on the goofy soul duet “How Dare You,” and let producer Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards splatter their melodies with bouncy percussion on “Eleven,” Mirah starts to match Thao’s playful looseness, and both are freed a bit from their solo identities. If that happened more often, Thao & Mirah would sound more like a collaboration and less like a decent split.