Watch Mirah perform the song "Education"
I first heard and fell in love with the music of Mirah five years ago, when we featured her album C'mon Miracle on All Songs Considered. I was immediately taken by her beautifully restrained arrangements. Lots of artists mix digital and acoustic sounds, and I admit to being a sucker for it, but Mirah did it with such control and grace. Her songs were never overly produced or overly sentimental. They were just a little dark, with something bubbling beneath humming electronics and gently strummed guitars.
At the time of its release, I would never have guessed that C'mon Miracle would be Mirah's last collection of new songs for several years. I went back and discovered her earlier works: 2000's You Think It's Like This but Really It's Like This, 2001's Advisory Committee, 2002's Cold Cold Water EP, 2003's Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project. You can see the trend: an album a year, every year. But after C'Mon Miracle in 2004, Mirah laid low. There were some remixes and previously unreleased songs. She worked on projects with other people. But I never got to see her live, and I desperately wanted her to put out a new solo album.
Now, five years later, Mirah is back with another thoughtful, inspired collection of songs, and she hasn't skipped a beat. (A)spera has everything that ever made her work lovely and meaningful. So I was thrilled to hear the new album, and even happier to hear that we'd be able to meet with her at this year's South by Southwest music festival and conference to shoot some video.
Sometimes giggling, totally charming and self-effacing, Mirah performed three new songs for us at the historic Driskill hotel in Austin, Texas. It was just her and her guitar — no electronics. In fact, she first played her guitar through an amp, but the buzz was so bad that she unplugged it and played her semi-hollowbody Gibson like an acoustic guitar. Her performance was one of my highlights of this year's SXSW, and among the most memorable musical moments I've experienced.