ecause it sounds like she has bravely overcome the flu on her drive over to the studio. I was unfamiliar with this lady before I listened to Manzanita, her third album, so I was intrigued by her vocals when they floated into the mix of the opening track. Nonetheless, I still feel like the producer ran out of Kleenex the day before recording. I also feel that if you're going to sing bits like "We all know they've got it fixed in politico-economics...public confidence is shaken," you should be doing something entertaining at the same time. Iggy Pop used to break beer bottles over his chest.
However, no good will come from wishing Manzanita into something else. If we take the album on its own terms, which unfortunately includes a mystical pencil-sketch of Mia Doi nude, we have a collection of well written songs that at times (read: twice) make good use of that voice. "The Last Night of Winter" grooves right past its lyrics ("I'm drawing a map, connecting dots, fusing the past to the present"), with Todd singing like Joni Mitchell and her band playing like Dionne Warwick's. "Casa Nova" is a right-on ska tune that could be a big single, at least in California.
The best material on Manzanita is played with a lot of accompaniment (including brass, organ, woodwind), and the worst is played by Todd alone. Piano and acoustic guitar are unequal to the task of wresting us from influenza-hippy land. Get better, Mia!