Several years ago, I had convinced myself that I didn’t like Ida. I was under the impression that they were a bit slow for my tastes, frankly, and I hadn’t yet even developed a taste for Low, the band they were most frequently accused of imitating. Maybe it was due to underexposure or lack of patience. Perhaps it was just stubbornness. It’s hard to say. But as long as I can remember knowing who Ida were, I remember not being a fan. And I was okay with that. But then I get my hands on Heart Like a River, the band’s newest effort, and everything changes. Just one listen and I come to an immediate conclusion — I was dead wrong.
Bands like Ida do take some patience; let’s get that straight. Though, not a whole lot, I’m happy to say. The New York trio is sleepy and droney, two traits that aren’t necessarily novel in and of themselves. However, where a band like, say, Low would let the absence of sound do a lot of the speaking for them, Ida fills each song with layers of instruments, letting each harmony intertwine like woven fibers. Though a song like “Laurel Blues” may have a particularly spare arrangement, Elizabeth Mitchell and Karla Schickele make up for it by countering with soothing vocal harmonies.
On the whole, however, calling Ida slow-core might be misleading. They’re not fast, either, but they’re not exactly plodding along at a wounded sloth’s pace. The second track on the album, “599,” is surprisingly noisy and upbeat. Songs like “Mine” and “What Can I Do” are lovely songs, reinforcing the idea that Ida are a more country-informed version of Low. And to some degree, that’s not inaccurate. But again, Ida does better at layering instruments and avoiding the reverb, while their Duluth contemporaries create more glacial textures and more unsettling arrangements.
One of the longest tracks on the album, “Sundown,” is also one of the quietest and one of the best, as well. This is, coincidentally, also the most Low-sounding track here. But I never said that was a bad thing. Daniel Littleton’s soft baritone presides over this track, as Neil Young-influenced country-rock tones float by in the background. The melancholy, almost jazz-like “Written on My Face” is another highlight, as brushed drums and piano give Ida’s folky sound a cooler, late-nite vibe.
So I like Ida after all. Imagine that. I can’t even figure out why I thought I didn’t. Maybe my suspicions were correct, that I just needed to give them more time. And I did. But it didn’t take much before I fell in love with Heart Like A River. It’s an incredibly easy album to enjoy.
Low – Trust
American Analog Set – Know By Heart
Hem – Eveningland
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.