Amie Miriello, I Came Around (BellaSonic/Jive/Zomba)
purchase this album (Amazon)
The current boomlet of female singer-songwriters hasnâ€™t yet spawned a Lilith Fair revival, but you can just feel one coming when a label like Jive throws its weight behind a folk-pop ingÃ©nue like Amie Miriello.
Actually, Jive has been behind her for awhile; she and her songwriting/performing partner, guitarist Jay Dmuchowski, threw together the band Dirtie Blonde after signing with the label in 2005, and scored a minor hit with the poppy but personality-free â€œWalk Over Me.â€ Since then Miriello has jettisoned the band and allowed Jive to use her as a guinea pig in the launch of its BellaSonic subsidiary, which seems intent on marketing her in a Colbie Caillat/Sara Bareilles mode.
And why not? Miriello exhibits plenty of promise on her solo debut, I Came Around, even if the albumâ€™s charms are a bit scattershot. The songwriting is relentlessly catchy (Miriello has at least a hand in every tune, assisted by Dmuchowski and numerous others), and its folk and blues influences occasionally manage to bubble up out of the major-label production gloss. The acoustic musicianship is impressive, too â€“ and apparently is very impressive during her live gigs, which feature more of a laid-back, low-fi vibe than she displays here.
The only trouble is, Iâ€™m pretty sure Miriello is schizophrenic â€“ or at least her voice is. (Come on, folks â€“ I had to say something to avoid the standard clichÃ©s, like â€œshe wears her influences on her sleeveâ€ or â€œshe hasnâ€™t found her voice yet.â€) Miriello has a strong, bluesy voice in there somewhere, but on songs like â€œPicturesâ€ and â€œBrand Newâ€ she meanders from one affectation into another in what finally sounds like a desperate attempt to connect by reminding listeners of someone else. A little Alanis here, a little Tori there, a touch of Joni on “Who You Really Are” and the lovely piano ballad â€œSnowâ€ â€“ it doesnâ€™t end there, but you get the idea.
Thatâ€™s the bad news. The good news is, Miriello doesnâ€™t need to do all that, because her songs sell themselves without all the distracting vocal acrobatics. The title track (and first single), for example, matches a regret-tinged lyric with propulsive guitars, sounding like an early track from the wonderful Sarah Harmer.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/h0ZN7k7HDhM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Meanwhile, â€œGreyâ€ and â€œColdfrontâ€ have tremendous pop hooks. (Iâ€™ve chosen not to hold it against the latter song that it received a polishing from new American Idol judge and songwriter-to-the-starlets Kara DioGuardi â€“ are there five pop albums released this decade that donâ€™t feature a Kara credit?)
This being a major-label solo debut, Miriello and Jive have conspired (itâ€™s unclear â€“ did she jump or was she pushed?) to introduce her with an acoustic alt-rock cover, offered free on her website. In her case itâ€™s Smashing Pumpkinsâ€™ â€œDisarm,â€ which Miriello pulls off gracefully but to which she adds precious little. When will major (and minor) labels finally learn how to market singer-songwriters on their own merits, and allow us to awaken from the nightmare of the stripped-down cover version?
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rpkyOXuGs0Y" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Based on this somewhat premature solo emergence, itâ€™s natural to wish that Miriello had taken a slower, more Brandi Carlile/Shawn Colvin-esque path to the majors. I Came Around is enjoyable on its own, too-derivative terms, but I look forward to Mirielloâ€™s next album. Hopefully by then sheâ€™ll decide on a voice, because once she settles in she might well build a career on par with her influences.
It may not be a career that a sales-driven major like Jive/Zomba can sustain; still â€“ if the BellaSonic imprint survives, and shows some patience for an artist who might need time to build an audience â€“ the label just might learn to trust its A&R instincts and let the real Miriello emerge.
That Miriello wonâ€™t need an alt-rock cover. She also wonâ€™t need to (sorry) wear her influences so prominently on her sleeve. And she wonâ€™t need her label to advertise her â€¦ ahem â€¦ assets so prominently on her CD sleeve, either.