Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Mirah: (a)spera

Written by Herlinda Flores
 Active ImageWhen Mirah's last record, C'mon Miracle, was released four years ago, almost every music critic praised her for finally releasing an exceptional and “grown-up” record. With such appraisal for C'mon Miracle, the pressure looming over Mirah regarding her follow-up record was nothing short of daunting. But what critics tend to lose perspective on is the fact that all artists are constantly “growing up.”

When Mirah's last record, C'mon Miracle, was released four years ago, almost every music critic praised her for finally releasing an exceptional and “grown-up” record. With such appraisal for C'mon Miracle, the pressure looming over Mirah regarding her follow-up record was nothing short of daunting. But what critics tend to lose perspective on is the fact that all artists are constantly “growing up.”

The artist is always evolving or devolving under constant influence by particular sounds or stories and experiences that help shape his or her work. That is exactly what happened with Mirah and it is apparent on her new album, a collection of emotions and testament, (with a focus on evolution), an album I can only describe as an exquisite odyssey. An album called (a)spera.

Like her other albums, Mirah's fourth LP is on K Records, a prolific label with a long history of acclaimed and groundbreaking releases. Tucker Martine (who has worked with The Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens) and Adam Selzer (who has worked with M. Ward and Norfolk) helped combine her effortless guitar playing with her ability to coin bittersweet lyrics that move effortlessly between hope and despair. The result: a voluminous resonance traversing the genres of folk/indie/lo-fi/pop and settling into a unique sound and landscape. Her remarkable collaborations with longtime friend Phil Elverum (The Microphones) are again present on her latest collection.

Before even listening to (a)spera, I was struck by the title, which is reminiscent of a word stemming from my first language, Spanish. The immediate correlating word in my native dialect is “espera,” which means "to wait," and that's exactly how I felt during the four years since Mirah’s last studio release. Oddly enough though, the Latin root of "asper" means "rough" or "hard" and "spera" means "hope." The literal conflict in her treacherous and auspicious translation mirrors the exact expedition my life traverses every time I listen to this album. Isn't that how most of life's journeys are anyway?

The first track of the album, "Generosity,” starts with a pristine, classically composed violin and pulsating drumbeat. It is a heartfelt and exhausting tale of a bestowed love lost, and it keeps you holding on to every word—"You once showed such promise but now I won't give more/I Won't Give More, (We Just Want More).” The more stripped downed "Education" is a perfect title for this "lesson learned tale," when paramours reach a mutual understanding and decide to explore their own directions. Though most of (a)spera may sound plaintive to some, Mirah’s sensual certitude can mar that bleak interpretation. The jazzy, carnival sounding "Country of The Future" is filled with the hope found when you finally reach your destination, knowing the only thing that kept you going and kept you believing was love. Again, the contrasts of hardships and hope are present in all the songs.

I do believe this to be Mirah's best work yet. She obviously isn't afraid to break away from her familiar lo-fi/folk sound and seems to have introduced us to a more sophisticated record. Case in point, Mirah has slowly started to embrace modern technology, and half of (a)spera was recorded in digital format as opposed to her usual choice, analog. Mirah has always been an advocate of DIY principles and has adhered to them faithfully, but adapting to modern recording techniques doesn't have to be the devil’s work either. (a)spera takes the best of both audio worlds, and this results in Mirah’s opus. I can only hope it doesn't take her another four years to compose her next musical masterpiece, but if it's as awe-inspiring as (a)spera, I can wait as long as she needs.

Share this post