Mai: Still Need a Kiss

Mai, comprised of Swedish-born singer Johanna Wedin with support from Dorian Dumont and Bardi Johannson, follows up 2006's Snowing Downtown single with the accomplished debut album Still Need A Kiss. As already established by the single, the group's piece de resistance is clearly Wedin's stirring croon, which inevitably begs comparison to Hope Sandoval and especially Julee Cruise. It's impossible to ignore the Cruise connection, especially when “You Should Come” plunges headlong into the gothic torch territory so indelibly associated with Cruise and collaborators Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch. Even so, “You Should Come” is powerfully epic in tone and, despite the fact that Wedin's voice again could be mistaken for Cruise's, “En Fait” registers as memorably atmospheric folk.

Hailing from the North of Sweden, Johanna grew up listening to multiple genres, which might help account for the album's stylistic diversity. The guitar-heavy murder ballad “Like In a Film” finds Mai inhabiting Mazzy Star territory while “Silly” recalls the Morr-styled pop-rock of Ms. John Soda. “You're Lovely but I'm Gone” exudes a winsome quality that recalls Lisa Loeb's “Stay” and it's also impossible not to notice that the opening eleven notes of the bluesy torch ballad “Travelling Light” are the same as those that begin “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Though mournful in character, the ballad “Snowing Downtown” (reprised from the single) offers the ideal showcase for the alluring quality of Mai's vocalizing. Amidst the lulling drift of vinyl crackle, an electric piano and electric guitar form a restrained backdrop for her haunting voice. Though vocal contrast is provided by Dumont 's contribution to the delicate, bedroom-styled ballad “Only Sleep” (plus two other songs), Wedin's siren-like voice is the album's unifying force and the group's not-so-secret weapon.

December 2007