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It’s been said that nothing is original anymore. Case in point, it was recently brought to my attention that Led Zeppelin stole “Dazed and Confused” from a relatively unknown folk artist by the name of Jake Holmes (thanks Furious.com).
Thus, I’m often torn between whether I think a new artist is "influenced by" or "sounds like" another artist. In the punk scene, for instance, where chord progressions and drum beats are passed from band to band like a good joint, what makes something new and fresh has more to do with small modifications than reinventing the wheel.
So if you’re going to do it, then do it well. Is there more than a smattering of Feist and Cat Power in the music of Meiko? Sure, but it’s not like they invented their style either. Also, I have to tip my hat to any artist that does so much chart damage yet still remains indie. And by indie, I don’t mean an indie label; I mean independent.
And Meiko is independent. In 2007, she released her debut album — called simply enough, Meiko — with no record label and virtually no help. Well, maybe a little bit of help. Nic Harcourt of KCRW in Los Angeles quarterbacked the young singer/songwriter on his hit show, Morning Becomes Eclectic. The album ended up hitting number 35 on the iTunes Top 100 and has sold almost a quarter of a million songs.
So why all the fuss? Meiko writes catchy pop tunes and plays them well. “Maybe Next Year” is a lovely rant about people who might have been too naughty this year for Christmas presents. “Boys with Girlfriends” is a song about guys who have problems with fidelity. “Reasons to Love You” is in the form of a question, not an answer, as in, 'What possible reason do I have to love you?'
Meiko doesn’t stray far from the familiar pastures of lovelorn songstresses. Most of her songs are sad laments about the evil things that men do. And, yes, the music is a little familiar. But she does it well.
With recent appearances on The Bonnie Hunt Show and Late Night With Conan O’Brien as well as scoring over 13 million song plays on her MySpace page, it looks like Meiko is set to become the next big thing.
What are they putting into the water at the Hotel Café? Meiko is yet another hyper-talented musician to cut her teeth on the L.A. venue's stage, which previously helped launch artists like Priscilla Ahn, Cary Brothers, and Ingrid Michaelson. Although armed with the requisite trappings of a singer/songwriter -- fingerplucked guitar chords, lovelorn lyrics, and a chic café vibe -- Meiko brings something different to the coffee table, mixing wistful pop/rock tunes with toy pianos, muted trumpet solos, and the occasional programmed drumbeat. Her vocals take the spotlight on nearly every number, alternating between raspy whispers and a strong, radio-ready belt. There's a Southern accent buried somewhere in there, too -- a product of her childhood spent in rural Georgia -- but Meiko creates her own geography with songs about low-rent apartments, Hawaii, and lovers' arms. Breezy handclaps and a singalong chorus turn "Boys with Girlfriends" into the album's most commercial track, yet Meiko's real strength lies in the less conventional numbers: "Reason to Love You," which features a cooing, hiccupping chorus; "Piano Song," an indie pop exercise in cuteness; and "Hiding," where minor-key progressions and a lone keyboard riff combine to form a rainy day ballad. Perhaps most impressive is "Said and Done," a nocturnal song that pairs Meiko's vocals with the orchestration of a John Alton film noir. When Meiko audibly exhales during the chorus, her breath sounds like a snare hit, and it's nuances like that -- smart, slyly inconspicuous tricks -- that elevate her beyond the realm of ordinary songwriters. [Lucky Ear released a similar version of this album in 2007. However, this reissue features remastered tracks, new mixing, several re-recorded songs, and the brand-new single "Boys with Girlfriends."] ~ Andrew Leahey
Personnel: Greg Collins (guitar, organ, Mellotron, bass guitar, programming); Joel Shearer (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Jon Skibic (electric guitar, banjo); Al Sgro (electric guitar, synthesizer, drums, percussion); David Levita (electric guitar); Carson Cohen (mandolin); Dan Petty (ukulele); Oliver Kraus (cello); Stewart Cole (trumpet); Fil Krohnengold (piano, keyboards, synthesizer); Zac Rae (tack piano, electric piano, organ); Will Golden (toy piano, Wurlitzer organ); Ed Maxwell (upright bass); Matt Chamberlain, Michael Jerome (drums).
Audio Mixers: Will Golden; Mark Endert ; Fritz Michaud; Bryan Cook.
No one knows the plain language of the barroom better than Meiko (mee-koh). Waiting tables at the Hotel Café in LA’s Cahuenga Boulevard arts district, she’s been privy to a few conversations no sober heart would choose to have in public. So it seems a shock when she stands up before that same crowd and openly proclaims the sweetest secrets of her own beautiful heartbreak.
On the self-titled Meiko, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter is at once tough, tender, raw and funny. Never exactly what you expect, she and her songs all explore loss and loneliness, but none of them seem to live there. “I have a hard time writing love songs,” Meiko says. “I write frustrated love songs.” With a keen eye for detail and a vivid gift of narrative, Meiko collects jagged moments and devastating conversational snapshots, and turns them into deceptively simple tunes with hushed, gentle tones and stunning imagery.
Hailing from Roberta, Georgia, (population 808), Meiko grew up in an actual log cabin built by her father’s hands. It was her dad’s affinity for The Eagles, The Allman Brothers Band and others that gave Meiko her folk sensibility. “He had this beautiful old Gibson guitar,” she recalls, “And he played and sang for me right from the cradle.” Of course, a child can’t yet discern a cover song from an original. “Imagine my surprise years later when I heard some band named Led Zeppelin playing my father’s song — ‘Stairway To Heaven’ — on the radio.”
MEIKO IN PLAYLIST
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