Mayra & Mr Mow – Songs for Orpheus (2012) 9.0/10
Listening to Mayra & Mr Mow’s debut LP is like walking down a slender street in the Eastern quarters of Paris; it’s obviously a jazzy jaunt but with the French art de vivre mellowness, added to an exotic aroma delicately wafting through the air revealing every Parisian’s secret yearning for foreign lands and warmer climates. Although Mayra’s Brazilian background accounts for the latter feature and Mr Mow’s affection for acoustic rock makes for the agile guitar riffs, one can’t help but be surprised (if not impressed) that jazz’s champions should be so young. Although a happy few songstresses fuel the beacon of the genre (read Melody Gardot or the timeless Diana Krall), it’s not the style most up and coming voice and guitar duos chose. And precisely, Songs For Orpheus isn’t just jazz. The title of the LP points to its subtle diversity: not only are the songs varied, most songs are themselves a medley of different musical inspirations. From bossa nova to nearly rapped lyrics, the French musical duo knows how to spice things up- our only regret is that the headliners of the LP are the tracks already featured on the Maybe A Little Bit Drunk EP.
The urban stroll starts out seemingly casual with effortless class: “You’ve Gone” shares the same trumpet groove that Mark Ronson plays with so well, and Mayra’as voices sounds out clearly just as a laid back beat and soft base make their entrance. The chorus swells and the pace hastens and even gets caught up in itself as “Maybe A Little Drunk” emerges. Somewhat eerie high pitched humming contrast during the intro of this second track with the beat box and finger-snapped beat – a case in point of the duo’s tweaking classic arrangements. It then starts to appear that it’s probably not on liquor the listener might get drunk but on the purring lead vocals. When the guitar starts strumming and the beat bouncing, the skipping street wanderer tears the introductory veil of mystery. A teasing guitar and the pauses during the outro echoes the tendentious lyrics.
Our wayfarer might stumble upon a Brazilian bodega as the warm chords of Falsos amores roll out, revealing a true bossa nova influence. However the vocals are slightly lower than expected, taken you unawares. By the time “All those nice” rolls around the record-player, the sensual tone has been given – quite appropriately given the slightly ironic “shalalas” that punctuate this disillusioned yet lighthearted love song. The LP attains a summit with the very catchy “Arctic Dreamer” – on of the more pop tracks. The lively electric contrasts with the swaying vocals and the structure made of highs and lows keeps you feet shuffling and shoulders swinging. The bridge lets a dialog of sorts take place between Mayra’s delicate voice and Mr Mow’s guitar.
Although some of the new tracks such as the quirky twofold “Mister James” are definitely worth a listen, “Vicious” comes as the last of the tracks that make the specific strength of this debut. It contrasts with the rest of the album and is perhaps the epitome of the diversity at the core of this LP as the vocals take a leap from jazz to something closer to rap. Mayra’s softly half speaks the verses like a much more sophisticated and melodic Uffie. All in all, you’ll want to follow this wandering Orpheus’s stroll, as I wouldn’t be surprised he’ll be hitting some pretty major avenues and boulevards in the near future.