Three Of Swords, by Mimi, an eclectic Singer-Songwriter from Toronto, begins with a song called “Goodbye Heartbeat.” The track contains soft-spoken, airy vocals with varying rhythms and melodies over a frantically pulsating bass line. An acoustic guitar plucks along steadily. The song has a dreamy, ethereal quality that’s consistent throughout it’s nearly 4-minute run-time.
That pleasant tone is maintained throughout the rest of the album, although the ways in which Mimi delivers her songs greatly vary in style and arrangement. The second track on the album, for instance, is rife with Latin flair— propelled by a cornet part played by Patric McGroarty and spot-on use of Spanish-language vocals. The song is entitled “Porque Te Vas,” and it’s a cover of José Luis Perales’ 1972 song of the same name (originally performed by Jeanette).
Three Of Swords includes three other cover songs in addition to its six originals. On one such track, Mimi bravely tackles Warren Zevon’s “Hostage O.” Mimi’s version consists of more lush instrumentation, trading Zevon’s acoustic guitar for a piano and adding more sounds as the song progresses.
Mimi’s ability to transform another’s work into something that aligns so similarly with the sound of her own songs is a testament to her abilities as a songwriter. She doesn’t simply play other peoples’ songs, she rewrites them to fit her own style, ultimately creating something fresh.
Evidence of that fact can most readily be found on “Alone And Forsaken,” the Hank Williams cover that closes Three Of Swords. Mimi’s pounding percussion section and strange effects almost have a cinematic quality to them, adding tension and melodrama that’s not necessarily found on the original song (which is simple— just acoustic guitar and vocals— but, of course, great). And the singer’s soft voice is a harsh difference from that of Hank Williams.
And it’s that voice that is Mimi’s most valuable asset. At its most subdued, the singer’s voice is effortlessly sweet and alluring. Yet she also has the ability to quickly and accurately jump from note to note on various scales, using her talents to transform her vocals into a unique and unpredictable instrument.
Mimi uses her voice most creatively on the songs that she wrote herself, such as the breezy and bouncy “To The Ocean.” Mimi punctuates her own lead vocal part with chorus-like background vocal stabs (all of which are assisted by what sounds like it could be a theremin … although it could be a synthesizer of some sort). Mimi even makes sighing sound musical.
One of the album’s best tracks is “Many Moons,” a folksy track that bounds along with help from Laura Bates’ violin part. Mimi draws out her somber lyrics, which include lines like “I am old / I will be older / And as we try to hold / This forever / Many Moons will come,” to craft an intensely-building, emotional song.
On a track-by-track basis, Three Of Swords is unpredictable. At one point Mimi’s twisting her voice in a dazzling display of technical prowess, at another she’s singing entirely in Spanish and at another she sounds akin to Joan Baez. As a whole, however, the album is entirely consistent. The thread holding it all together is difficult to pinpoint, although it undeniably stems from Mimi’s incredible talent. And that sweet, sweet voice.