Monday, April 3rd, 2017

ionnalee – Samaritan

iamamiwhoami frontwomangoessolo…


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[7.14]

William John: In timbre and general predilection toward echo effects there’s a startling vocal similarity here to Ellie Goulding; the busy chorus, chanted like a mantra, could easily have been lifted from her catalogue of hits. Though Goulding has a reputation as the apotheosis of beige, sapless pop, her music has plenty of maximalist inflections — see the crashing hugeness of the bridge to “Still Falling For You” or the rolling build towards giant synth thuds in “Anything Could Happen.” Ionnalee, the leader of mysterious Swedish pop outfit iamamiwhoami (remember the 2011 conspiracy theory that she was Christina Aguilera?!?) and for whom high concept is de rigueur, injects this bombast with that uniquely Scandinavian brand of whimsy — a homiletic second verse and chorus, an orchestral introduction, a plodding, Volga-Boatmen-like beat — and accelerates all Goulding-tics to a hurricane speed. “Samaritan” requires just a touch more melodrama to reach the extraordinary heights of the likes of Susanne Sundfør’s Ten Love Songs, but is a laudable approximation nonetheless.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: The problem with iamamiwhoami was all their tracks felt only three-fourths there. If you want to be super-cynical, I suspect the idea was that the ~*mystique*~ would make up the other 25 per cent. Or perhaps it’s that the basic iamamiwhoami sound, since their debut, has been strip-mined of all novelty by alternative then mainstream pop — the rumor that Christina Aguilera was behind the project would actually seem possible in 2017. But I think it’s simpler: Jonna Lee’s solo work had the same problem, and so does “Samaritan.” Three-fourths of this is perfect: an opening of sumptuous drama out of Ten Love Songs, a piano riff that’s implacable like a sledgehammer, eventually doubled by contralto-chant DJ-Mustard “hey”s to nod to this decade. But then there’s the chorus, which is nothing.
[6]

David Sheffieck: After a thrillingly dramatic intro and first verse, I love how this explodes with energy on the chorus — as if a giant strode into the room, each step a thunderclap, then paused for the briefest moment before breaking into softshoe dance. And Lee’s vocal is nimble and typically distinctive, placing emphasis on the unexpected (“I don’t believe in AAAA god”), ensuring an already unpredictable track never settles down.
[8]

Leonel Manzanares: The reason why “Samaritan” is such an earworm is because it’s quite a slow burner. After years of exposure to iamamiwhoami’s smoke-enshrouded atmospherics and vocals obscured by layers of mystery, the clearer, cleaner, poppier sound of this track may seem underwhelming at first, but on fifth or sixth listen, that chorus melody becomes irresistible. And what a pleasure it is to hear ionna’s heavily-accented croon over those orchestral hits. 
[8]

Alfred Soto: Security-era Peter Gabriel given a new body and coat of paint, “Samaritan” uses keyboard flourishes, distorted guitar, and Christian tropes as a weapon against those who hem her in. Musically it isn’t hemmed in — if anything it’s too long.
[7]

Tim de Reuse: A punchy, incisive rant on perceived obligation and the two-sided effects of fame, made forcefully uncomfortable by a marching band theme that lurches its way up the minor scale. The message is powerful — the sound design is exhausting.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: A weird, arty, doomy track built around a menacing piano run, “Samaritan” is huge, pretentious, not as clever as it thinks, but fairly compelling. Jonna Lee’s chorus trips over itself, though not quite enough to make her claim that she expects to be hanging from a wooden cross sound anything other than a little silly. Like much of the iamamiwhoami project, this is cool but doesn’t quite hit every target; the dial towards the level of absurdity and inspiration is nudged but not turned all the way.
[7]

Reader average: [9.11] (9 votes)

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