On first listen, Mi Ami‘s sophomore album, Steal Your Face (Thrill Jockey), seems to begin where last year’s Watersports left off—-quite literally. “Harmonics (Genius Of Love)” practically kicks off midstream, with guitarist and vocalist Daniel Martin-McCormick‘s frantic yelps hitting a histrionic high pitch at the song’s start. If Watersports had been a double album, the C-side could’ve started here.
But listeners will be reconsidering “Harmonics” by the time the next track, “Latin Lover,” slithers along on a guitar groove practically pulled from a top-tier classic-rock tune. It’s the kind of counterintuitive kick in the pants that post-punk fans should know to expect from a band with Mi Ami’s subversive pedigree.
Or maybe they’re just looking for “crazy, off-the-wall musical experimentation.” Or some other post-punk cliché. Which means they may be taken aback about halfway through “Latin Lover,” when Martin-McCormick invokes “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston.
That’s exactly what’s great about Mi Ami—-that it will go where other art-punk bands won’t. While 10th-generation Public Image Ltd. rip-offs do their best to reiterate the standard that band set in the late ’70s, Mi Ami—-which has two members who are alumni of the arty D.C. dance-punk act Black Eyes—-does far better bringing in the complexities of pop music and society in the present.
So it’s slightly frustrating. The dub-inflamed sound of Watersports is still here, just not always on the surface. At its heart Steal Your Face is a grower: There’s less of Watersports‘ straight-to-the—jugular immediacy, and more of a spellbinding, slow-burning quality, realized most fully on Steal Your Face‘s closer, the aptly titled “Slow.”
And although the album only contains six cuts, it’s satisfying—-a multiple-course art-punk feast. It’s filling, it’s exhausting, and when you’re ready for more, you can return to it. But that shouldn’t suggest leftovers: Everything here is too fresh.
Mi Ami performs with Maximillion Dunbar and Steve Summers on April 15 at the Velvet Lounge.