In the past, Mia Borders was one of those obviously gifted artists who hadn’t settled a musical direction yet. For her last album, Quarter-Life Crisis, she enlisted Anders Osborne as producer and made a more rocking, guitar-centric record—a bit outside her comfort zone, but it was a kick to hear her try it. But this time she does what apparently comes naturally—an acoustic-based, retro-soul approach steeped in Bill Withers, Joan Armatrading and later Marvin Gaye. And not only does she sound at home, she sounds completely authoritative.
If she’d sequenced this album differently, it would trace the arc of a relationship: There’s a bitter kiss-off to an ex (“Sara”), a hopeful song about a new relationship (“Cool Breeze”), a more blissful song about same (“Sugar in My Soul”) and finally, a celebration of a newborn child (“Love You”), with the baby sounds appearing in the mix—a touch that risks being cutesy, but it works. And it shows what she can do as a vocalist: The sassiness of “Find Another Lover” makes it the immediate grabber (though the promise of “You won’t find another motherfucker like me” will keep it off the radio). But its real payoff is in the fadeout, where she wails “Don’t leave me” in a higher, pleading voice, revealing the emotions behind the attitude. The near-rap breakdown on “Leave Me Alone” is another adventurous touch that works, and the production touches—strings on the title track, close-miked acoustic guitars and atmospheric keyboards—keep the voice and the feelings upfront.
The songs here make her personal experiences sound universal, and shed light on the deeper matters of the heart, which after all, is what soul is all about.