Monday, 11 August 2008

Album Review: Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart

The début album from Norwegian singer-songwriter Ida Maria is one of the best Saturday night/Sunday morning albums since Primal Scream's Screamadelica. But while the 1991 classic was a catalogue of uppers and downers, Fortress Round My Heart is all about the booze. The narcotic count might be negligible on this ten-track album, but there are still plenty of highs and lows, as Ida and her band lurch from the gay abandon of alcopop indie-rock such as I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked to the gin-soaked, tear-stained melancholy of See Me Through.

Musically, Maria proffers little new. Her primal indie-pop and gentle introspection could have been produced any time over the past twenty years, but the 23-year-old is such a fantastically fascinating character it's hard not to be captivated. The musical career of the be-fringed rocker was kick-started at an open-mic gig after a set by Kings Of Convenience's Erlend Øye. Legend has it the singer was so incensed by her fellow countryman's gentle folk-pop she took to the stage and unleashed an impromptu bile-filled set. Since then, Ms Maria has performed covered in blood after headbutting a guitar, cracked a couple of ribs and attempted a violent attack on a member of a rival band. Sweet Scandinavian popstar she ain't.

This anger and unpredictability is evident throughout Fortress Round My Heart. Maria rasps her way through the chorus of inspired opening track Oh My God like she's ready to be sectioned, then turns sweet as a strawberry Starburst with the Jimmy-Mack-alike Stella. This schizophrenia means Ida Maria's début is a constantly interesting prospect, giving evidence, if any were needed, that a touch of madness often makes for the best music.


Release Date: 28/07/08 Label RCA

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