Lush, Impeccably Arranged, Artsy Purist Tunesmithing From Mimi Oz

by delarue

Right up until the lockdown, songwriter Mimi Oz was a ubiquitous presence on the New York live music scene. She always seemed to have a gig at the Rockwood, or Pete’s, and would occasionally put in an appearance at one of the Bushwick indie clique spots. While she doesn’t have any publicly announced gigs on the calendar, she has a lavishly and tastefully produced new album, Growing Pains, streaming at Bandcamp. Maybe this dovetails with the zeitgeist, but on this one there isn’t as much of the quirky sense of humor that’s often infused Oz’s work up to this point: this album is dead serious and better off for it.

Anchor, a soaring gospel-soul number, is told from the point of view of somebody who isn’t exactly a saint. Lots of people play on this record: throughout the album, Richard Weisdorf and Dan Ricker share piano duties, Oz joined on guitar by David Celia, Mike Milazzo and William Pearson. Jason Smith and Jarrod Ross share the bass chair; drums and percussion are handled by Ryo Tanaka, Miles Gibbons and CJ Young. There’s orchestration, too – Lenna Pierce on viola and Kensuke Shoji on violin, with Leigh Macdonald on trumpet and Josh Aguilar on sax.

Caroline could be a Blondie hit from the early 80s with more than a hint of Tex-Mex and Motown, plus a rousing choir of backing vocals. The album’s title track is a real showstopper, a towering art-rock anthem that clocks in at about seven minutes. With its gorgeously bittersweet layers of guitar and Oz’s angst-fueled vocals, it’s the best thing she’s ever done – and one of the best songs of 2020.

Hate is a slow, simmering electric rock anthem for outsiders in an era of top-down divide and conquer. The slow gospel ambience returns in RFYL, awash in organ and Rhodes piano.

Oz stays in pensive mode for the stark solo acoustic ballad Star, contrasting with the joyous, coyly bouncy Time Will Tell.