Maylee Todd: Maloo
LP | DL
Out on 4th March 2022
Pre-order from Bandcamp
Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and multimedia artist has a digital avatar named Maloo. She now has a sumptuous pop album that also goes by that title. It’s the perfect collection of sci-fi lullabies. Gordon Rutherford reviews for Louder Than War.
Maylee Todd is not your run-of-the-mill pop singer. Her creative output to date may be musically-dominated, but in the past, she has also been involved in comedy and dance. She has a digital avatar, named Maloo (hence the album title). During lockdown, she spent a significant chunk of time dwelling in VR, prompting deep thoughts about the utopian possibilities of the technology. Duly inspired, Todd went on to craft eleven tracks to tell Maloo’s story. These songs are now concisely presented as this concept album. Collectively, they tell the tale of our protagonist, who is summoned into being by the creators of the metaverse before travelling to the Infinite Program, a planet whose sustainability depends upon the well-being of its inhabitants. S Club 7 it ain’t.
We shouldn’t be surprised at the scale and imagination of this project. This Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and multimedia artist who is now based in Los Angeles has never been one for conventionality in her art. Presumably, that stems from her ancestry, with antecedents favouring the most eccentric of careers. Her father was an Elvis impersonator, whilst her grandfather was an escape artist known as The Great Toddini. He was also a UFO obsessive, so it’s safe to assume that he would have loved this album. Thus, given all of that, it’s probably reasonable to expect this release to be a little different from the standard pop fodder. Pleasingly, it is.
In what is possibly the most accurate description of music ever provided, Todd describes her music on Maloo as “science fiction lullabies”. That is perfect. This is a collection of songs that sound as though they are crossing galaxies; soundwaves being beamed down to our consciousness from another universe. They bleep and burble, albeit in an incredibly melodic way. They are blissful and chilled, nothing is rushed and the beats are gentle. It’s dreamy and comforting, like being wrapped in the wings of an angel. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that Todd’s quirkiness is a front to conceal a shortage of talent. Behind the sci-fi veneer and the avatar, Maylee Todd is an artist who understands how to write damn good pop songs and she categorically proves it on Maloo. Moreover, she is an exceptionally talented singer, with a mellow melodious tone that perfectly matches both the theme and the tunes.
Some of the finest pop you will hear in 2022 lives on Maloo. The recent single, Show Me, is a perfect example. The first few bars neatly resemble the opening of Sly and the Family Stone’s Family Affair. The similarity doesn’t continue as Show Me morphs into something else. Notwithstanding that, it’s the most soulful track on the album and is the one where Todd’s voice really flies. There is also an interesting counterpoint between the velvet-like quality of the music and the song’s theme of vulnerability. The track named after the fictional planet, Infinite Program, is another highlight. Todd’s Yamaha Tenori-on chirps like a bunch of tipsy crickets whilst she coos a beautiful melody over the top.
However, the stand out track on the album is the gorgeous No Other. This is a tune with a melody to die for, accentuated by Todd’s voice ascending and descending through the verses. By the time we get to the excellent break-up song, Dream With You, you get a sense that Todd has shifted from the virtual version of herself into the real thing, as her voice becomes more human and emotional. There is something about the delivery on Dream With You that really conveys the heartbreak in this song, whilst the others have a slight air of detachment. That’s not a criticism – after all, it’s an album born out of virtual reality.
It seems somehow fitting that the music for Maloo was composed on a Yamaha Tenori-on. This little square tablet, consisting of a sixteen-by-sixteen grid of LED switches, is the most remarkable little electronic instrument and it perfectly brings that sense of music from an alien place. However, there is a downside. Relying solely on an instrument like that to compose an entire album will result in some limitations. It means that there is something of a sameness in the feel of Maloo’s eleven songs. There are no bad tunes here, far from it, and, as mentioned previously, some are exceptional. It’s just that the lack of diversity can make it difficult to fully engage throughout. At times, you find yourself drifting and the songs temporarily become background music.
That aside, there is plenty going on here to get your teeth into. It’s evident that Maylee Todd is an incredibly talented singer, musician and songwriter. Furthermore, she is an artist who is clearly prepared to take risks and dare to be different. In fact, it’s literally in her DNA. And that’s precisely what the world needs right now.
All words by Gordon Rutherford. More writing by Gordon can be found in his archive.