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Trio of young acts offers mixed bagPosted Thursday, May 7, 2009, at 12:32 AM
Fresh, positive voice from a young Hoosier
In the age of glorified karaoke that is American Idol, the term singer-songwriter seems completely out of place. Why bear your on thoughts when it's so much easier to sing someone else's stuff?
In fact, the term singer-songwriter evokes for most people thoughts of 70s folkies with acoustic guitars like James Taylor or Carol King. It certainly doesn't apply to a fresh-faced young pop singer.
Then there's Indiana's own Sarah Scharff, whose debut Waiting was recently released by the Tate Music Group. The Sullivan native wrote and sang all eight of the album's tracks.
What really adds a breath of fresh air to Scharff's album are the songs themselves. They offer a positive outlook on love, life and relationships. The album kicks off with title track, in which Scharff sings about "Waiting" for Mr. Right. The song expresses the desire to find love without ever being too desperate.
"You and I" offers the perspective of someone who's been in a relationship for a while. Sure, there are rocky times, but in the end there is still love.
Among other standouts, "Mr. Moon" is a song of heartbreak and "Lovers Hall of Fame" is, obviously, a tribute to a very special someone.
What's so refreshing about Scharff's music is its innocence. In a genre that attracts so many young listeners, the fact that Scharff never ventures into the realms of partying or sex is nice. When she sings about love, it's the right kind of love.
My spin: B
Waiting is a fine debut offering. A young person wanting to be a performer should follow Scharff's lead -- find your own voice and express it.
It offers a positive collection of songs for young people or anyone who enjoys uplifting songs that bring a smile to your face.
Happily dysfunctional with Ida Maria
Read too much into the lyrics of Ida Maria's Fortress 'round My Heart, and one might find a frightening image of the 24-year-old Norwegian's life. There's boozing ("Oh My God"), there's loveless sex ("I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked") and countless other images of the wild life of a party girl.
And then there's "Stella," a track in which God offers "the best of drugs" and then "the world," simply to seduce a "43-year-old hooker from downtown." (I'm not kidding.)
It seems to come from a slightly warped worldview, to say the least.
On the other hand, you can take the music for what it is -- upbeat, energetic and fun.
Behind Ida's vocals, one finds the more than capable playing of Stefan Tornby (guitar), Johannes Lindberg (bass) and Ollie Lundin (drums). It's a musically tight unit with just enough jangle to be poppy and enough edge to remain punk.
So what does the mix of energetic music and desperate lyrics add up to? What it always has -- a good punk rock outfit.
My spin: B-
Fortress, released April 14 on Mercury, is a fun record. It has its faults, but what debut release doesn't? It has a tight sound that should only improve if the four-piece stays together.
The most exciting element, though, is Ida's voice. She has that rare ability to push it to and beyond her limit without the listener minding much. As she screams some lyrics, I found it charming and intriguing. I look forward to discovering where that voice takes her on future releases.
Pay close attention to the three mentioned at the top, as well as "Queen of the World." If not purchasing the entire album, these make for good downloads.
Fireworks tread water but have fun
Is it better to break new ground or simply have fun with music?
On All I Have to Offer Is My Own Confusion, Detroit five-piece Fireworks emphatically chooses the latter.
Musically, this ground has been trod before. Fireworks plays the pop punk of Blink 182, Sum 41, New Found Glory and countless others. All I Have to Offer, released March 24 by Triple Crown Records, does little to add anything new to the genre.
But that doesn't necessarily make it bad.
Listening to the album, the band is obviously having a good time. They play with energy. They wield their instruments with precision. They have a wonderful knack for anthemy sing-alongs.
It's fun to listen to. Put on the headphones and I dare you not to bob your head or tap your feet. If you have it on in your car, watch your speed.
My spin: C-
The album isn't really that good or that bad. Sure, it's been done a hundred times before, but for any fans of this punk rock infused with teenage energy and melody, Fireworks does the genre just as well as anyone else has.
...and the beat goes on...
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Jared Jernagan is a 2003 graduate of Wabash College and has been in journalism since 2005.
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