If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Shrug” by Ida. (2000, from the album Will You Find Me)
Ida are a folk rock band from New York who have been making records since 1994. They’ve shuffled the lineup a few times over the years and they’ve called three different record labels “home”. The core of the group is Elizabeth Mitchell, Daniel Littleton and Karla Schickele. While they all have experience playing in punk bands, their approach highlights the simplicity of quiet guitars, piano and minimal drums. They also have some of the most amazing vocal harmonies.
They were one of the best bands not named Tsunami to be on the Simple Machines label, and their Ten Small Paces(1997) was the last full-length album released by the massively influential label. The three records that they did for SMR were my favorites of their canon, but Will You Find Me was undeniably their most successful record. That one was released by Tiger Style Records, as was The Braille Night (2001).
In 2002, Ida released an almost out of print “album” called Shhh…, which is ostensibly a collection of songs whose titles begin with a shhh sound. “Strings”, “Shhh…”, “Shotgun”, “Should’ve Called”, “Shoreline”. In reality, it was just a vehicle to release four different remixes of the song “Shrug”. They’re all pretty special, but I still prefer the studio version, from “Will You Find Me”.
“Shrug” by Ida
I love the simplicity of this song. The brushed drums and the incredible vocal harmonies are the stars of the show. That’s pretty much all there is for the first half of the song. Brushed drums, piano and a bit of guitar. In the first verse, it’s two lovers entwined in bed, and I’ve always found this bit to be super-sexy:
…you press your ankle against my arm
This is the pressure that I love
You always recommended
Something doesn’t go quite right with the lovers and it ends with
Your restlessness is emptier
than the room we used to live in
Here’s wishing you the best
The rest is always better left unsaid
If that’s not heartbreaking, I don’t know what is.
The lyrics cut out at 2:00, and the second act of the song is wildly different from the first. There’s a melodica, a lot of organ, the drums are heavier, and there’s quite a bit of feedback from the electric guitars. That contrast is pretty jarring, and I find it incredibly appealing.
Since 2005, Ida have been on Polyvinyl Recordings, but they’ve only released two records. The label has also re-issued the first three records. Although Ida have been idle since 2008, they haven’t called it quits yet. They played a few festival shows last spring and summer. Elizabeth has made four records of children’s music, and her 2006 album You Are My Little Bird was named Best Children’s Album of 2006 by amazon.com.
Tigerstyle Records in on indefinite hiatus and there doesn’t seem to be a way to buy a physical copy of Will You Find Me from Ida’s website. You can get it from amazon, though. If you want to go the digital route, buy it from the Ida site.