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The narcotic sort of singer-songwriter turf Canada’s Kate Maki covers on her latest album, On High (Ow Om), isn't far removed from what a whole bunch of other fragile female singers with acoustic guitars are doing--and for the same reason I can't think of a single one of them at the moment, I don’t think Maki's sticking with me either. Although she'd released a couple albums prior to this one, she started gaining broader attention when she turned up on Howe Gelb’s 2006 'Sno Angel Like You (Thrill Jockey). I guess he heard something he liked in her thin voice, because he decided to produce the latest record and release it on his tiny indie label.
The music is pleasant enough, and the arrangements—some using only Maki's voice and acoustic guitar, some featuring the core of Canadian musicians she's worked with over the last few years, including guitarist Dale Murray (Hayden) and drummer Nathan Lawr (Royal City)—give her songs the appearance of more variety than they really contain. Some tunes, like "White Noise" and "To Please," which rolls along on optigan, blown bottle openings, and a train whistle, employ the sort of ramshackle waddle Gelb's used as a calling card over the years, while the waltz "Message Forgot" and "Don’t Look Down" use fairly standard issue small band arrangements. The main problem is that Maki just isn't a very interesting singer, but she also has some serious pitch issues.
But maybe she's simply captivating live--if you go see Maki open for Great Lake Swimmers tonight at Schubas and think so, let me know.
Here's her video for "We Are Gone":
Various artists, Sufi Songs From the Comoros (Buda)
Maybe Monday, Unsquare (Intakt)
Wasifuddin & Bahauddin Dagar, Vedanta (Sense World Music)
Anne James Chaton & Andy Moor, Le Journaliste (Unsounds)
Håvard Stubo, Daniel Franck & Håkon Mjåset Johansen, Wes! (Bolage)