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Album review: Mia Doi Todd's 'Cosmic Ocean Ship'

May 16, 2011 |  6:11 pm

Mdt__2_ Mia Doi Todd is anything but bashful about her touchy-feely New Age leanings: Before the end of the first song on her new studio album, the local folkie has mentioned coconuts, butterflies, açaí and mango juice. (Here’s a CD you can assume will find its way to the checkout aisle at Whole Foods.)

Elsewhere on “Cosmic Ocean Ship,” Todd refers to a lover as “the salt in [her] sea,” requests a restorative embrace from Mother Nature and wonders of an overcrowded, war-ravaged world, “Can we fix it with our love?”

In “Skipping Stones,” this California judge’s daughter even lays out a slogan perfect for bumper-sticker use by a candidate in next year’s presidential election: “Water the plants / Do a little dance.”

Yet if Todd makes it easy to poke fun at her earnestness, she also makes music that’s hard to resist: Layering airy but precise vocal melodies atop hushed, largely acoustic arrangements, the singer offers up a crystal-clear distillation of the vintage Laurel Canyon sound currently in vogue among Todd’s feather-and-denim cohorts; indeed, “Cosmic Ocean Ship” might be the best argument yet in favor of the East-of-Hollywood hipster-hippie thing.

And though her lyrics seem allergic to comedy, Todd’s collaboration with producer Jonathan Wilson yields the occasional splash of instrumental wit, as when a drum roll straight out of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” crops up in “Paraty,” a song about an imagined land of milk and honey.

Mia Doi Todd
“Cosmic Ocean Ship”
(City Zen)
Three stars (Out of four)

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— Mikael Wood

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