Plumbiferous Media

(a)spera – Mirah

Mar 15th 2009
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(a)spera - MirahMirah
Score: 94

After a five year hiatus since her last full-length album, C’mon Miracle, Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, still the same eminently creative singer-songwriter, has released her fourth album, (a)spera. Zeitlyn’s earlier albums were excellent in sound and overall concept, and her newest album easily matches up with them – perhaps surpassing them. Between deep, rich vocals and lyrics and a complex and well-conceived musical accompaniment, Zeitlyn has produced an excellent new album.

It’s immediately apparent that Zeitlyn hasn’t lost a bit of the soft, rich quality which sets her voice apart, and (a)spera is just as blessed with excellent vocals as any of Zeitlyn’s earlier albums. As soon as she begins to sing on (a)spera‘s first track “Generosity,” the degree to which her voice defines and carries the music is remarkable. This isn’t, however, to say that the music is lacking at all – instead, it’s that Zeitlyn’s voice integrates extremely well with an excellent musical backing. With such a vocal backbone, it’s no surprise that (a)spera works so well – and Zeitlyn’s excellent lyrics can only help this along even further.

Zeitlyn’s lyrics are especially notable for the mixture of vivid imagery and emotion they contain. From the demanding throngs of “Generosity” to the admonition not to abandon your “bones and skin” in the song of that title, the lyrics of (a)spera not only sound excellent, but contain a sort of intense, visual meaning not present in many albums. Though Zeitlyn favors that eternal topic of indie music, love, the extended naval metaphor of “The World Is Falling,” topped off by a “sail of regret” pushes it all ahead. When Zeitlyn contemplates the possibility that “love might just be an economy” on “Education,” it’s clear this album, lyrically, goes far beyond the standard laments of love lost.

In addition to the incredible lyrics, (a)spera is filled with outstanding instrumentals. But what makes them outstanding is not their perfect, melodic simplicity – that would simply make them very strong. What forces them above those of most other albums is the instrument, effect, and tone choice apparent in every single track. Everything is highly calculated to create the exact sound that best fits each unique track, from the soft fuzz and hum of the flawless “The World Is Falling,” which quite literally includes some pure static, somehow only bettering the track, to the light, pure sounds of “Shells,” and the wonderfully rustic guitar in “The River.”

And speaking of intense calculations, Zeitlyn wondrously contains every group of repetition in the exact amount of length so as to tease the listener, holding on just until one is about to lose interest, and then nicely transitioning to a fresh section. And though many sections contain similarities (see “Generosity”), each changes the song just enough so as to keep listeners engaged. In fact, the only problem with “Generosity” is that it changes in this manner so many times that change itself just starts to become undesirable. One of the only disappointments in (a)spera is that the second half, while still musically excellent, loses much of the careful (somehow desirable) quality that was maintained through the earlier tracks.

The overwhelmingly incredible, pure, almost, but not quite repetitive, and unadorned sounds of (a)spera, when put in the hands of any average artist would not survive an EP. But Zeitlyn has managed an incredibly diverse album with these qualities (compare “While We Have the Sun” to “Country of the Future,” which can only be described as “really damn cool”), and not only is the album itself great in its diversity, but each track could easily stand without the support of the others. Quite simply, (a)spera is an amazing album.

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