Ida at Iota, Arlington, VA, Monday 26 May 2008
Ida seems to be among the last few bands still active in the "slowcore" subgenre of indie rock. The other key bands from the scene's mid-1990s heyday have either broken up (Bedhead, Codeine) or gotten noisier and faster over the years (Low).
Unfortunately, slowcore bands are often also labeled "sadcore," because of their songs' sluggish pace and somber tone. But there's very little sad in Ida's music: Most of the songs in the trio's show on Monday night at Iota sounded like love-lullabies, and they were made even sweeter by the harmonies of the group's main songwriters (and married couple) Elizabeth Mitchell and Dan Littleton. While most of the songs were explicit love songs ("See the Stars," "Dream Date," "Les Etoiles Secretes"), even a song inspired by a crime drama ("The Killers, 1964") was made tender by the pair. (You'd be hard-pressed to find another band today who could make the line "You punched Ronald Reagan right in the face" sound like a kiss good night.)
While Ida's music is a little bit of a nostalgia trip back to the mid-'90s, there's also something timeless about the simple songs and minimal instrumentation (Mitchell and Littleton were joined by violinist Jean Cook). As if to demonstrate the agelessness of its approach, Ida ended the night with a look even further back in time: a heartbreaking cover of the Carter Family's "Are You Tired of Me, My Darling?"
The trio certainly don't seem locked in to any brand of indie rock: They joined country/folksinger Michael Hurley for 10 songs of his opening set as a preview of an upcoming recording collaboration.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 28 May 2008; Page C04