I Came Around ( CD-R, no date* )
Unslushed because: I had just burned a disc for a friend and needed a case for it. Ms. Miriello’s demo, nested in one of those soft plastic clamshells, did the trick. But then the naked disc sat around on my desk and I felt guilty for recycling the packaging without checking out the package.
Factors not initially considered: Based on almost zero information—just the song titles printed on the CD—I was 98 percent sure this was going to be damp, folksy, and low-budget. It turns out that it’s a more ambitious affair with a sturdy rock foundation. Interspersed with a few damp, folksy numbers.
I also don’t know what she looks like.
* UPDATE: I wrote this before visiting Miriello’s myspace, where I learned that this CD is her “BellaSonic/Jive/Zomba debut.” She has 14,000 friends. Listening to her music, I thought she was some poor middle-school teacher with a hopeless dream who’d spent all her savings recording a crappy, overproduced demo on weekends over, like, a three-year period, selling her Dodge Colt and resorting to waitressing at O’Flanahan’s when her studio time ran long. She was trying so hard, God bless her, that I figured I’d give her the benefit of the doubt and say the nicest things I possibly could about her painfully vapid CD.
On further review: There’s no question that Miriello can sing, but if she has enough influences not to sound like a strict copycat, she’s not exactly borrowing from new places: The first mentor you hear is Stevie Nicks, but there’s also a self-assured Ann Wilson arena presence, some Alanis, and a slice of Joni Mitchell in the ballad “Beauty of Goodbye.” And there’s also no question that the cats behind the board and the guitars are pros. This thing has been supersnazzed for FM: big hooks on the rock numbers, Miriello’s breathy catch-and-release on the quiet songs. This was not just slapped together in some basement.
The problem with I Came Around is that it feels divorced from whatever its creative urge once was. I’d like to think that somebody, at some point, sat in a quiet room somewhere, writing these songs and believing in them. That honesty is now obliterated by the modern-rock cookie cutter—hack broken-mic effects, big loud-soft contrasts, blurs of buzzsaw guitars—and most of what you hear is not the music at all, but some very earnest people’s projections of what they think some total A&R/AOR asshole wants them to sound like. You can still sense a vital core to songs like “Gray” and “Who You Really Are,” but when you run out of fingers counting the clichés (the cringe-worthy “Brand New”), you start to suspect that the good stuff is just the stuff that they didn’t have time to ruin.