In this week's Critics' Picks, I highly recommend you go see Mirah at Mercy Lounge tonight. I start by saying this:
Under "Female Indie-Pop Singer" in the Wikicyclopediationary, there should probably be a picture of Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn (alongside Young Marble Giants' Alison Statton and, say, Fontaine Toups). Her voice is breathy and, by American Idol standards, slight and untrained--qualities that epitomize the genre's vocal style.
Some of my favorite singers are deadpan deliverers, and as indie has moved into broader circulation (thx, Internets and iPod commercials), the flat-affect style of singing has, too. The other day Snarkmarket posted that video of a band called Pomplamoose covering Beyonce's "Single Ladies."
As with most things on blogs, some people loved it, some people didn't. One commenter in particular did not dig the vocal style:
Really? I found the flat affect sort of irritating. It made it hard to watch the video, honestly-took me about three sittings. She's very pretty, but there's something about the flat affect that seems almost disingenuously naive, an overly self-conscious presentation of innocence.
Points off for including "very pretty" in your critique of her singing, commenter! Anyway, I don't disagree with the overall score--the Pomplamoose version takes two things I like (Beyonce and flattened-affect vocals) and manages to make something I don't--but it's more because it doesn't work with the song. Usually, these indie-fying cover versions succeed when they strip away the bombast and reveal something more in the process. Luna's version of "Sweet Child O' Mine" might be the best example. "Single Ladies," on the other hand, is a confrontational song, and Pomplamoose basically do to it what Clapton did to "Layla"--drain the venom and, in so doing, remove the sting that makes the song memorable.
So yes to flat affect, no to Pomplamoose's "Single Ladies" and yes yes yes to Mirah tonight at Mercy Lounge. Here are the two examples I give in my Pick, if you don't recognize them.
Young Marble Giants doing "Colossal Youth":
And here's Fontaine Toups singing with Versus (one of the great indie bands of the '90s) on the song "Frog":