A stablemate of Earbuddy favorite Firehorse, Mieka Pauley has a new record chock full of piss, vinegar, and whatever it takes to make them sexy. I hate it when they make me fall in love.
Mieka Pauley, 2012
7.8 / 10.0
I’m going to do something a little out of character to begin this review, but I think it’s important in order to properly contextualize my experience with Mieka Pauley’s The Science of Making Choices. So, here is a short inner monologue that actually happened during my first listen to the record…ahem…
Chris: Well, this is certainly a pleasant little pop song.
Mieka: You never fuck a woman that you don’t love..
Chris: Hey did she just say…
Mieka: You never fuck a woman that you don’t love…
Chris: Yup, she said it.
Mieka: …I’d stay in the shower washing off bits of me.
Chris: Right. I’m in love with this woman.
I think you should pretty well have the picture now. There are a lot of similarities between Mieka Pauley and her stablemate Leah Siegel (of Firehorse). If you don’t remember Earbuddy’s slobbering love for Leah, just know that she was on just about every ‘best of’ list we put together for 2011. First, both singers used the help of the too-capable-for-his-own-good producer Geoff Stanfield. Second, they have already been sharing dates on the road. Third, neither Siegel or Pauley are on their first trip to the rodeo, both have already released a few noteworthy records. Fourth, these ladies have some serious roots in the best music of the nineties. Fifth, and most importantly, they are both playing music that heads straight for the jugular. I believe the term I used for the last Firehorse record was ‘balls’. With The Science of Making Choices, it is apparent that Pauley has enough of that to make most men cower in fear.
Pretty much everything on the first half of The Science of Making Choices works for me. Stanfield’s production is top notch once again, providing just the right about of darkness to Pauley’s soulful lyrics. Pauley’s compositions have a wonderful tinge of pop to them, without ever straying into the land of bland. Where Pauley and Siegel part ways is stylistically. Where Siegel is much closer to a straight forward rocker, Pauley seems to enjoy playing around more in the world of jazz and R&B. I wouldn’t go so far as to compare her to Joss Stone, but there is definitely an old funky soul in that voice. My major complaint with the record is that there are places that I think would have been better served by a little bit more sound. This is similar what I perceived as the major flaw to everyone’s favorite Adele record from last year. I just couldn’t understand why you would waste that amazing voice on so many vapid, lifeless backing arrangements. With a voice that good, you should amp up the sound and give her something to play off of. I think the mistake on Pauley’s record is far less egregious, as they just decided in many places to not use anything at all to fill in the spaces. One would assume that this was an attempt to showcase Pauley’s painfully lovely voice. I just can’t help but think that songs like “Marked Man” would have benefited mightily from something more behind this voice. I much prefer the live version of this song that you can find on Mieka’s Daytrotter Session. When she really lets loose with that raw blues vocal, it works. But, the version here is just a bit too subdued for my taste. The payoff is much better in the case of “Frigid”, which is maybe a little understated, but definitely give Mieka something to work with. Regardless, as with the Adele record, even with nothing going on behind her, Mieka Pauley has a wonderful voice that is more than enjoyable in its own right.
With The Science of Making Choices, Mieka Pauley sets herself apart as one of those rare songwriters that ‘gets it’. She uses her voice as a weapon, with words as surgically placed as an Elvis Costello song. She’s a dead sexy singer. I think she’s knows that. It’s not exactly a special talent unto itself. What is interesting is that Pauley is also very intelligent. That is the intimidating part. Brazen and chock full of Jagger swagger, I don’t might if Mieka is a little showy here and there, because she can back it up with some seriously good songs. On “Another Go” she claims her “id and ego will blow you away.” Trust her on that one, because this is the first time I’ve ever fawned over Freudian lyrics. In short, do you remember seeing those old films of the Beatles where the girls in the crowd are wailing and fainting? Mieka Pauley kind of makes me want to do that and not even feel embarrassed about it. If she keeps making music like this, I think my masculinity is a fair trade.
“Never Fuck A Woman That You Don’t Love”
“We’re All Gonna Die”