Ides / Alanna McArdle

Every time I become enamored with a new band, I go off and read anything and everything I can about the group.  All of the usual stuff that I imagine normal people do.  Normal people do that, right???  And, of course, that search usually leads to several side tangents, veritable rabbit holes of information, or shit holes depending on your point of view.

Being the obsessive completist that I am, when I go on those crazy searches, I'm often looking for B-sides, demos, live clips, and side projects, but also a bit about the artists too.  I have to hear and see it all, own everything they've produced.  A sickness, I guess.  Actually, it's part of the education process, finding the group's place in my mind, mentally ordering their work, and, of course, becoming emotionally intimate with the art.  During the process, I also have periods of severe doubt about my own tastes, and I become ashamed that I've spent so much time on research.  It's overload, but I enjoy the discovery, and on occasion I'll find something worth the effort.

That's how I felt when I discovered Alanna McArdle of Joanna Gruesome had a side project, Ides.  I had fallen for Joanna Gruesome last fall, listening almost daily to the excellent album Weird Sister. I loved the album's punk pop sounds, devilishly hilarious lyrics, and Alanna's dreamy to screamy vocal stylings.  A phenomenal effort, but Ides is a total shift in style.

Songs About Love/Hate is Ides' debut EP -- four stark, honest and somber confessionals.  Ides is Alanna and an electric guitar, whispering tales of love, loss, and betrayal; a complete purging of emotions, as if she was at the end of her rope, then howling with anger as all the pain of holding on became too much to bear.

I enjoyed Songs About Love/Hate, but I knew its themes would prove difficult to shoehorn into my daily playlist, the collection would only be for certain times of reflection.  They were labeled as Sadcore for a reason. Call me crazy, but heartbreak songs are vital, revisiting such things even in times of happiness are a sheer reminder of that craggy precipice of swirling miserable days.  Remember to live.

Then came Prisms, the perfect heartbreak song, and I had to hear it over and over.  There was Alanna's big ethereal voice right out front, no fuzzy vocal effects or a guitar to hide behind, frail and soaked in misery, but with a gentle hopeful lilt.  This is late night 2am music for the heartbroken, gorgeous in its pain.    

Ides' delivery of Prisms reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite authors, Graham Joyce.  In his excellent novel, How to Make Friends with Demons, he wrote "You can hear the character of someone's experience in their voice.  Her's was warm, and vital, but damaged."  

The opening draws you in with: "I miss your pretty face/and the way your lipstick tastes. "And then breaks our hearts with: "Could you think of anything worse than being with me?" Alanna's voice thrives in this territory -- powerful, yet frail, hopeless but never helpless. I'm glad I jumped down this rabbit hole, now I have this lovely song to show for it, and even months after discovering it, I still listen to it a handful of times a week. I hope to hear more Ides in the future.      

Prisms can be downloaded for free from Ides' Soundcloud page, but I opted for the Art Is Hard Records Postcard Club version. The folks at Art is Hard Records sent me a really cool postcard with the artwork for Prisms on the front and a personalized note on the back along with a link to download the song.  A nice touch for about $2.

For more information on Ides:

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