Pop music doesn’t have to be clever, in fact it is often at its best when it is relying on baser, more emotional driven urges. But every now and then someone proves that it is possible to blend the two, the cerebral and the passionate and Mitchell Mirande is the perfect example of head meets heart music. And if the term pop music may give you the wrong impression, though pretty much everything with an accessible quality is pop(ular) music to me, lets dig a little deeper.
The charm of the Drunk Games is that it builds its structure through chiming textures and delicate sonic choices which when layered up create a wash of shimmering sound. Slip a simple beat under it and you have a gracious indie-pop hit in the making, one that should remind us that pop music can tug heart-strings but when done properly it can also stimulate the brain. Pop music has always invited you to dance, but sometimes it also wants to sit down with you, have interesting discussions and really give you something to think about.
Mitchell Mirande is a singer and songwriter with a minimalist approach to his work. His music makes me think of the work of artists as diverse as Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz, just to mention a few. It is all about trying to find that thin balance that exists between cheerful and uplifting pop tunes, and that intimacy we known and love about acoustic/folk music.
This song however, takes on a different life, as the acoustic guitar and vocals are joined by a full-on arrangement, with lots of counter melodies, drums and other cool rhythmic elements.
Mitchell’s recent studio single, “Oh Ailia”, is definitely a great compromise between these two different vibes. The song has a nice rhythmic twist and a very sparse arrangement that further contributes to the emotional response and positive impact of this particular single release. When listening to this song, I almost find myself wishing it was summer all over again. I could picture myself sitting on the beach surrounded by friends with a guitar on my lap, singing along and strumming along to this great tune!
One of the challenges facing the singer-songwriter, voice and guitar driven song is how to sound big. Not big in the bombastic, U2 stadium rock sense but in knowing how to take these simple elements and lift them off the musical page, make them sound robust and accessible, set them apart from the pack. Some do it by deft and intricate guitar work, layering vocals, production tricks and other gimmickry. Mitchell Mirande does it simply by writing great songs, delivering them with competence and confidence and then adding just the most perfect touches of texture and wash.
It seems pretty obvious really, why dress a song up to create some sort of pretend elegance when you can strip it back to actual eloquence? And Hold On is eloquent, in that same way which makes the transient nature of watercolours more powerful than the vibrant nature of oil paintings, a combination of keeping things musically simple, though far from simplistic, musically ethereal and that fantastic voice of his. Letting the music breath and the vocals soar, a vocal which seems to blend romance and honesty and a soulfulness with a delivery that most rock singers would kill for.
Get the basics right and sometimes the rest will just naturally fall into line.