This year's CMJ was generally lackluster, from the variety of performers to the performances given by those I did see. But there was at least one wow-worthy show -- Norwegian-via-Sweden singer Ida Maria.
I wasn't all that familiar with her music. I knew her mainly from her duet with Pelle Carlberg on his album In a Nutshell, "I Love You, You Imbecile," which is typically poppy Swedish jangle. But my friend Toby was really high on her and sent some MP3s my way, urging me to go see her. Her new single "Oh My God" is definitely more "rock" than Pelle's stuff. So I was expecting a pleasant, if sedate show.
Diminuitive, and dressed in a mint green school marm top, a dark teal leather skirt, purple tights and bright blue boots she looked pixie. But when she strapped on the guitar and opened her mouth, she transformed into a whirling, wailing little powerhouse that you could almost compare to early PJ Harvey (more Dry than Rid of Me) though her voice definitely has a certain Bjork-esque quality that is hard to deny. There were about 15 people watching when she first started but soon everyone (maybe another 20) filtered into the back room of Galapagos to watch her.
Ida Maria is a magnetic performer, pouring every ounce of energy and emotion into her songs to the point where she seemed lost in them some of the time. Mikes were knocked over, drums stumbled into and more than once she dropped to the floor onto her back where she continued to sing and play guitar. (About halfway through the show I also noticed her boots were off but I don't remember her removing them.) And though her presence was intense, it wasn't all anguish (though there was some of that). You also have songs like "I Like You Better When You're Naked" that are downright joyous and she beamed throughout that one.
Her band was ace too, skilled players who also got into the act though it was never anyone's show but Ida's. The set was average CMJ length, maybe a little more than 30 minutes but it was the only time I really wished anyone that week had played longer.
MP3: Ida Maria - Oh My God
MP3: Ida Maria - Queen of the World
Ida said her debut album would be out in April. Saturday, was in Williamsburg shooting a video for "Oh My God" with director Andreas Nilsson, the man behind all those creepy Knife and Jose Gonzalez clips. Speaking of...I also shot some video of Ida doing "Stella & God," though it turned out to be one of her more restrained performances. Still pretty great. Please ignore the annoying early-90s Tony Hawk skate video they insisted on showing behind them throughout.