Mia Joy, “Spirit Tamer”
Chicago-based songwriter Mia Joy’s debut album Spirit Tamer exists like an out-of-body experience, like walking back through a chapter in your past life. Joy—full name of Mia Joy Rocha—was raised by a musician and a poet, and being nurtured in such a creative environment provided her the room to foster a unique edge for her music. Rocha’s vocals define the deftness of good balance, like riding a bicycle while balancing a book on your head. Through this perfect leveling, the looping sleepy rock sound recalls the likes of artists Gia Margaret or Grouper. The 12-track collection of dirges sprinkled with honeyed lullabies are sure to drop you into an unexpected dreamscape.
The pith of the album breathes in the power of repetition as instruments dote on Rocha’s voice like a cherished memory, as made clear from the second track. “Ye Old Man” rides a simple lo-fi beat coupled with repetitive riffing and a dominant chorus pedal. A repetitive hook works, reminiscent of an immersive band like Current Joys. You can’t quite get enough of its addictive nature, like eating a few chips and already thinking of the next handful.
Perhaps the album’s most popular track, “See Us,” is where we see Rocha demanding authority most in her form. What starts with wind chimes dancing over a cool breeze quickly turns into a full-blown gust of wind. What purposely sticks out is the chorus, where the bulk of the track is coated in the phrase “I know,” sung over and over. It retains its smoothness with a vibraphone lead in the backdrop. The choice of laconic vocal structuring stretches and allows instrumentals to carry it forward. Exterior lines stick out as she sings, “I’m not my father, you’re not my mother / I know we can make it different for us,” and, “I see us making a name for ourselves,” to underscore what’s important.
“Heaven Forbid” reminds me of Sun June’s soporific and soothing tendencies, with accented hi-hat drumming sounding like restless nails tapping on tables simultaneously pairing with consistent snare hits. The track moves in lots of directions—everyone’s trying to steal the show; the lead guitar and hi-hat compete for first-chair melody against Rocha’s vocals while the stagnant bass and synth overtones keep it all afloat.
By the end of the last track, “Last Night Together (Arthur),” there’s what mimics a wood floor creak, or, perhaps, the excess flick of quietly lifting your fingers off a piano with a quick second of grain. It’s a perfect outro, void of overproduction to support the gritty, lo-fi gem. After listening to Spirit Tamer, I’m convinced Rocha might be the next venerated sleep-rocker in the game. Quietly, she makes an indelible brushstroke in the indie pop landscape.