Maylee Todd – Acts of Love (Do Right)
“What is your act of love and how does it bring you therapeutic value?”
That’s a valid question in a time of heightened anxiety and fear. It’s a question Toronto multimedia artist Maylee Todd posed in a questionnaire to audience members who came to see her performance art piece Acts of Love. Describing the show to the CBC, she explained the physical space where it took place by saying, "You walk through a massive vagina and then you are inside my womb."
Well then. Acts of Love, the album, isn’t soothing music for childbirth or anything else quite so conceptual. Maylee Todd has always been a massive talent who made somewhat light R&B (“Aerobics in Space”) that only hinted at her greater gifts. This, her third album, is an astounding burst of creativity that marks her as a major artist.
The most immediately gripping songs here are the ones that sound like soft-pop hits descended from Donna Summer and Madonna, from Sade to Solange, rich with ’80s synth bass and tightly wound rhythm guitar lines, or the type of early ’90s house music employed by Bjork on Debut. There’s also some straight-up Studio 54 thump on “Disco Dicks 5000.”
On the more downtempo tracks, however, Todd pushes herself into more political and personal terrain, with the necessary sonic innovation to illustrate it further. On “From This Moment,” she taps into timely conversations that are, sadly, eternally necessary: “Homies, please, help us along / step up and see when you see another man doing wrong / a woman with a voice is deemed a bitch / you fill me up with complex predicaments.” So smooth is her voice and the groove underneath—with its digitally pitched backing vocals, marimbas, stuttering beats, weeping strings and a lilting harp—that Todd can delve into such heavy topics with incredible ease.
Responsible for all the programming and engineering, she also plays almost all the instruments (including the aforementioned harp). Most affecting is her devastating vocal turn on “That’s All I’ll Do,” set only to a string octet, where Todd dives into the deeper end of her range to thrilling effect. Throughout, Todd’s inventive arrangements make a convincing argument that she could be a new Quincy Jones—there are more than a few Thriller moments here. Hyperbole? Not until you hear it yourself.