Over the last year or so I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing songs, albums and live shows by many individual Scandinavian performers and bands and I can honestly say that I think some of the best music around is coming out of that pretty thinly populated place. But then again it always did.
Think (currently) Of Monsters and Men (Iceland), Susanne Sundfør (Norway), Highasakite (Norway), Ane Brun (Norway/Sweden), Aurora Aksnes (Norway), Color Dolor (Finland) Sykur (Iceland) and Choir of Young Believers (Denmark) to mention only a few. Most have been reviewed here.
Ida Long is a young Swedish woman on whose shoulders have weighed great expectations for some time. Ida is the vocalist with the Swedish electro-rock/pop band Baron Bane, whose new single was reviewed by TMB in December, and whose third album will be released in March. Separately Ida is a solo songwriter, singer and dancer, and one who interacts with the many other musicians in her home town in Sweden.
When I reviewed her work with Swedish electro-mixers Mintelligence last February I said that it was a melodic fusion of dance, jazz, funk, electronic influences and Ida’s own ongoing experimentation. That experimentation has reached its zenith with Rainbows & Tears, which was released on 29th January on Swedish label Comedia, as the follow-up to debut album Walk into the Fire (2012). Self-produced in conjunction with Rasmus and Petter Diamant of Baron Bane and Swedish musical godfather Claes Olsen, it is her most complete work yet and one that will certainly find favour with discerning music fans.
Baby Gone opens proceedings and is delivered in what is regarded as her typically sad romantic style. There’s a spring in the step with this one though, with alternating string parts adding a sort of dramatic film score effect.
Second track (I Get So) Dramatic was the first single off the album. Ida Long has been voted Sweden’s best pop/electro artist and this track demonstrates the capability she has to bring soul to electro tracks, along with the mournful strings that are already becoming a mainstay of this album.
I also said in the previous Ida Long review that I am not normally a fan of remixes but there have been four remixes of the third track, We Got. One of them as the ‘Bella the Tiger’ remix by Gabriella Ăström, which I reckon would be a sure-fire hit in clubs here and along the Costa beaches this summer.
Rainbow has the nearest to a chart hook that I’ve heard on an Ida Long song while Mannen på taket (Man on the Roof) is one of the more intriguing tracks of hers that I’ve come across. Partly because it’s mostly in Swedish and as a student of the Muppet Show I’ve never been able to consider Swedish as a sexy language. But it can be, as this song proves. Moreover there are some interesting musical passages that wouldn’t have been out of place in a taut scene from Scandi-noir TV drama The Bridge, or even the bear attack in The Revenant.
Take me to the Woods (not that bear again, surely?) has echoes of her debut album with the exception of the fact that Ida has again found a powerful hook in the chorus that wasn’t always noticeable previously. The lyrics also throw in a clever shout out to another local band, the Deer Tracks, whose Elin Lindfors re-mixed one of the versions of We Got (and who appears briefly in the Baby Gone video).
Rivers is a gentle ballad with haunting backing vocals that references muddy waters, though I don’t think it’s the American blues musician. Chaperone sees the return of the strings to a dark song punctuated by ominous drums and bass lines but with a sing-along chorus into the bargain. Penultimate track Woman marries subtle rhyming with a long drawn out piano piece while the final one, Wolf, does much the same with the addition of more melody and a more forceful ending.
With Rainbows & Tears Ida Long has found a range that I suspect even Ida herself didn’t know she had. With everything from dance to ballad to pop and moods that alternate between dark and facetious (but with the accent still on dark, as she said herself, We Got is the first ‘happy’ song she ever wrote).
In the Mintelligence review I said ”It will be interesting to see what this year’s promised second (and full) album brings, what style she adopts in it and whether there will be further experimentation. I have a feeling it has all the hallmarks of a breakthrough.”
I’m sticking with that prediction. There is more to this album than has been evident previously and it will take several listening to get to grips with all the musical nuances, let alone the lyrics. It isn’t an album to listen to idly while you’re driving or doing the weekly shop but a concerted and open minded focus on it definitely pay dividends.
During 2016 Ida Long will tour extensively in Sweden and Europe and possibly Asia, where she has collaborated with artists and producers in both Japan and South Korea. I hear there are plans for at least one date in the UK, probably in London, but with luck there could be more.
©D J Bentley, 2016