Ida Maria and the record of the year
I picked up an import of Ida Maria‘s debut album, Fortress Round My Heart, about a month ago. I’ve kept my mouth shut about it (here, anyway), because I didn’t trust my intense, overwhelming reaction. Halfway into the first listen, I believed this might give me more pleasure than any other record I’ve heard in a long time. A month and the better part of 100 listenings later, I can confirm: this is fantastic.
I know nothing about Maria except that she’s Norwegian and the import price for her CD was too expensive. But I do know that Fortress Round My Heart is an explosive debut that deserves to stand in the same company as Pretenders and the Strokes’ Is This It?, two landmark debuts I bet she’s listened to a great deal. It’s one of those out-of-nowhere records that seems to encompass the whole world: high-powered rockers, sober but affecting ballads, and weird combinations of the two. Almost every song has a moment in which it feels like everything is about to spin apart, but this tough band enjoys leaning just a bit too much over the edge of a cliff and pulling back at the last possible second. Indeed, the high point of one of the intimate ballads, “Keep Me Warm,” comes when a jackhammer guitar stumbles in and takes over for a bit.
I don’t want to waste your time making the case for this (be grateful; I could go on for an hour); the music (video excerpts below) does that better than this fan could. Maria is an outstanding and diverse songwriter. Steeped in rock tradition, she’s also an immediately distinct singer. She delights in singing right at the edge of her range — listen to how she roughens up the “you” at the end of the first line of the not-a-novelty-song “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.” And then listen to everything else. This, friends, is the record of the year.
“Oh My God”
“I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” (UPDATE: embedding has been disabled, apparently; try this link)
“Queen of the World”