9 November 2014

Mia And The Moon - Mia And The Moon

This is my first review for a while, and also my first request for ATTIWLTMOWOS (We need a shorter title!). It comes from a band called Mia And The Moon. They consist of two sisters from Leicester, Laura and Mary-Anne, and play a poppy fusion of Folk, Jazz and a little Soul. As far as I know they are currently unsigned and are shopping for a record deal to release this, at yet untitled, album. They’ve self-released a couple of EP’s, with the latest, Tandem, released in the last few weeks.

When the request for this review came in, I thought the name of the band seemed familiar but I’ll say more about that later so as not to colour your view unnecessarily. Let’s just say they have a back story and leave it at that for now…

The first track is Snow; it’s a gentle acoustic song about falling out with a childhood friend and reminiscing about old times. It features some nice harmonies and seems more bittersweet than sorrowful in tone. The music begins with just a guitar but piano and drums slowly add a little more depth to it. It’s a nice song, a peculiar album opener but a nice song.

Hey Pretty Thing follows a similar relaxed pace to Snow and has a fairly explanatory theme, it’s an okay song but tends to pass me by, even after several listens.

An annoying problem I’m having with this album as a whole is that, while both Mary-Anne and Laura have good voices, they have, to my ears, fairly similar ones. Quite often I’m unsure which of them is singing. I imagine seeing them live that becomes much less of a problem! I think, for the most part, Mary-Anne takes the lead and Laura harmonises but I could be wrong.

The next track is Midnight In London, in which I know Laura sings the lead as there’s a video for it! It begins with some sparse, haunting piano and Laura’s smoky, jazz-tinged vocal. It’s a beautiful song that, I think, is about either missing someone or not having someone to miss in the first place. While being in London obviously. It’s an early highlight that has a strange, familiar feel about it.

Beautiful Burden follows swiftly and is another slow ballad that has echoes of Iris by Goo Goo Dolls in the melody. The lyrics are a little mawkish in places but whoever is singing (Mary-Anne possibly?) shows off their voice well, it breaks slightly in a couple of places and rather than seeming like a fault it adds to the emotion and helps to express the pain she feels. I liked this song a lot.

Fall Awake, again, is a ballad and one that took a couple of listens to really sink in but once it has it stays there, there’s a nice tone to the vocals and some great, subtle harmonies. Also there’s a frustrating string section that kicks in from time to time. It’s frustrating in that, it’s quite low down in the mix so, instead of building tension and emotion, it just sits in the background. If  they were given some warmth and oomph then they’d make this song a fantastic one.

At around 3.45 there’s a false finish, the song fades to a stop, there’s a couple of seconds of silence and then the piano starts up again, the music mounts gradually to a crescendo taking the song to just over six minutes. Again, if the strings (in hindsight, it might just be a cello…) had some kick to them this would work even better.

The next song is the most traditional Folk song here, I’m not entirely sure that isn’t just down to the name of it though, Moira Clara. It’s fairly minimal and has a really evocative feel to it. Listening to it you can picture a young woman watching the early morning mist waft across meadows of heather, mourning the loss of her soldier love who never came home. Wishing he were in her arms not laid beneath the poppies of Flanders Fields. 

Mr Sophisticated is much more lightweight and upbeat, it’s a head wobbling, feel good song that has a touch of Randy Newman about it. It’s a welcome change of pace. After that is Moments which, like Hey Pretty Thing, is a pleasant enough song but doesn’t seem to hold my attention well, possibly as it’s bookended by the two perkiest tracks on the album. I don’t remember much about even after several listens.  

(L-R Mary-Anne Ratcliffe and Laura Ratcliffe)

Seldom See Ya is the most effervescent track on the album, the verses bumble along merrily in a sing song, doopy doo , la la laa, kind of way. Odd as, lyrically, it’s quite a bitter and spiteful song, the line “I so seldom see you passing through but when I do I wouldn’t say hello” is pleasing if a little mean. There’s an agreeable burst of whistling that crops up halfway that works well too. 

River is another excellent track; it sounds grand whist being reasonably minimal. It starts softly but progresses bit by bit until around halfway, there’s a full band playing and both girls are giving it some welly it builds to a final crescendo and waves itself out with a bluesy guitar flourish. There are some great multi-layered harmonies in this song too. 

The final song is a two part track called Empty Life Of A Rich Man. The first half is ushered in with the soothing atmospherics of undulating waves. The main bulk of the song is the two of them singing over just Mary-Anne’s acoustic guitar. The stripped down approach really suits the lovely melody of the song. I also like the austereness that so little instrumentation suggests in a song with a ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ type theme. Somewhere just after the four minute mark, the first half of is subtly replaced by the second, a lone piano instrumental which closes the album in a suitably lugubrious manner. It reminds me of the depressing music that accompanied Bruce Banner as he left whichever townsfolk he’d initially befriended that episode but terrified when he inevitably became The Incredible Hulk and smashed stuff up.
Overall this album is a pretty decent one and with a few tweaks it could be a really good one. As I said the mix could do with being more balanced, the vocals not quite so high and the music not so subdued. With there only being two uptempo songs, maybe they should be more spread out over the album

Both Laura and Mary-Anne are accomplished singers and songwriters. There are some wonderful moments and beautiful melodies to be found here. It would be a shame if this didn’t get a full national release at some point in the future. I think Mia and The moon would be right up a lot of peoples’ street if they knew about them.

Speaking of them being up your street, they are currently on tour, details are at the bottom of this review. 

Oh, and I almost forgot! The back story thing. I knew that I’d heard their name before but couldn’t place it. A swift google identified exactly where it was from: The X Factor. They auditioned for the show in 2012 and made it through the first set of auditions and boot camp. They left the show before Judges Houses due to disillusionment with the format of it, how they were made to play up for the cameras and just how tailored to certain acts progressing it was.

I’d seen them on the show at the time (I wasn’t watching it honest! It must just have been on in the background whilst I was lifting very heavy weights or working on my Harley or, or, or sacrificing babies to Satan) and remembered the name because judges commenting on it. It irritated me that they’d find fault with a perfectly acceptable band name  amongst dross like Funky Crew, Sexxy Babez, There’s About Four of Us etc*. It’s glaringly obvious that a lot of the names were only created when the ‘band’ signed up for auditions and had to put something in the NAME box.
I digress. I think it was a big decision for them to quit the show at that point and at least deserve respect for that. It’s hard to make a proper living playing any sort of music let alone in such a saturated genre as this. To walk away from such a huge advertising tool as The X Factor is a brave thing to do.  

*I may have made these names up.

7 out of 10 - This is good and well worth a check.

Best Track: Empty Life Of A Rich Man

You can find out tour dates HERE

You can find out more about the band (and buy stuff) HERE 

You can listen to a couple of songs on Spotify HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment

Past sermons

Greatest hits