Through a catalog spanning back to the late ’90s, Mia Doi Todd has spread herself out as an unassuming acoustic presence. Cosmic Ocean Ship is the L.A. singer-songwriter’s ninth album, and as with the rest of her work, it closely reflects her off-record persona (which, mind you, seems to be no different to the one she presents through her music). Doi Todd’s classically trained voice carries warm vibrations and centers this record around love. She frequently uses imagery involving nature, speaking in unadorned phrases of “the lazy beach”; “the salty sea”; “waterfalls awaiting”; “the sunset sky.”
If you try to get a sense of who Mia Doi Todd is through her work, the conclusions you come to may include: soft spoken, treads lightly, likes spending time outdoors, enjoys meditation and maybe owns a few crystals. Doi Todd’s humility could be the reason why you may not know much about her, or her work, but you probably know some of the people who are appreciators of her organically grown sound—Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (among others) director Michel Gondry created a human color palette for the video accompanying “Open Your Heart” last year.
There’s a New Age component present in Doi Todd’s work, yet her sincerity keeps it from becoming precariously alienating. The stripped back nature of her songs, which were recorded live with all four members of her band playing together, foregrounds the richness of Doi Todd’s voice and her lyrics. She focuses more on core emotions that are universally understood. “Humankind love relation,” she sings on “La Havana,” “Cosmic ocean ship.”
The most resonant part of Doi Todd’s music is the quiet darkness that she twists into an undercurrent of tenderness. Cosmic Ocean Ship is more openly joyous than other songs on previous albums, like 2008′s Gea, and perhaps not as “mysterious” or grabbing. We should however be happy for Doi Todd, who seems overwhelmingly happy herself and willing to transport some of that joy to her listeners.