Want to know if someone’s a true Angeleno? Ask ’em about the gold. Not in the sense of precious metals. Nor in the sense of hit-record-makers, though they roam aplenty. I mean in terms of sensibility – the state’s innocent wistfulness, a result of hopeful migration meeting heartbreaking displacement.
Overlooking the smog-filtered glitter of Los Angeles, an easy stretch of rolling hills provides one of the few breaks in the city skyline along with a sanctuary for this sentiment. The Hollywood Hills, where the Los Angeles dream goes to live and die. From these hills, artists such as Joni Mitchell channeled such sentimentality to craft poignant pieces; nearly thirty years later, a cherub-faced post-grad found a similar voice.
Granted, Mia Doi Todd recorded her debut, The Ewe and the Eye, in a different community east of Hollywood. However, the record dwelled in this territory of tender natural imagery and somber occurrences. Although fresh from four years of schooling in New England, Todd’s writing conjured much of the city’s vision of magic and illusion within the mundane and the everyday, be it through sweet meditations such as “I lose track of hours/ Planting my spinach and cauliflower in my backyard” in “Planting Time” or oblique observations such as “Fruit born on the loom” in “Stoke the Fire.” Originally released in 1997 but out of print since then, she has finally reissued the album (a fine way to tide fans over between last year’s Manzanita and a pending remix record), complete with liner notes that feature her own line drawings and three bonus tracks (new acoustic recordings of three album tracks).
While obviously a first outing, The Ewe and the Eye holds up under the strength of Todd’s presence. Consisting mostly of her voice and acoustic strums, the record places the novice in the spotlight. However, already wielding a jayvee version of her plaintive soprano, she sings with astounding affection and care. The approach is positively sublime on simple pieces such as “Courting,” but it’s alternately chilly on the aching “Nightblooming Trilogy.” With such casual ease, Todd navigates this knotted terrain of what is and what could be. Call this reissue her Bringing it All Back Home: The Ewe and the Eye remains rocking in the hills, lulling her hometown with a familiar serenade.
“My Room Is White” video (off ‘Manzanita’)
“I Gave You My Home” video (off ‘Manzanita’)