Ida, the New York group composed mainly of Daniel Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell, returns for the first time since the 2005 release Heart Like a River with Lovers Prayers, a gentle and pastoral folk compendium that was recorded in Levon Helm's (of The Band) rural studio situated in the Catskills. This is their seventh studio LP, featuring mostly live takes with minimal studio overdubs, a true departure for them. It is a lazy Sunday morning type of album, comprised of fourteen meandering acoustic guitar-based songs.
The often harmonized vocals on Lovers Prayers are not dissimilar to those of Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk (Low) and the music unfolds at about the same languished tempo. Ida, however, possesses more of a driftingly serene sound, reminiscent of being in a hay-filled barn or perhaps somewhere out in an open field at night. Electric and pedal steel guitars appear throughout the record, but the band rarely steps outside of its preferred style of strummed rhythm acoustic guitar as the lead instrument. In addition to this core, intimations of cello, pump organ and percussion fill out the sound.
Warn Defevr, who has worked with His Name is Alive, produced and mixed the album, and if you are familiar with that band, you will recognize the warm sound of his influence on this record. "First Light" is one of the highlights; it opens with an acoustic guitar, and almost immediately some jazzy drums kick in and the song takes shape. Littleton sings the verse alone and Mitchell handles the harmony and backing vocals. Some ghostly piano notes pressed here and there make it sound a little bit like Bonnie Prince Billy meets Low. "Kora" is another standout track. The acoustic guitar is finger-picked and the candle soft vocals are layered in harmony. This particular track creates a mood of its own, setting it apart from much of the record. The guitar morphs into something of a blues/folk/rock piece akin to something by Bert Jansch as the vocals haunt the music seemingly from another plane.
Lovers Prayers is a folk record, but is unlike much of the current indie "freak" folk because the music sounds more mature. One can tell from the musical depth that Ida has been around for a while, and are comfortable in this musical notch that they have etched for themselves. Slowcore folk is possibly the best way to describe the overall feel of the record. The music is a lethargic shade of light blue without being depressing, mainly because there is little despondency in the vocal delivery; rather, an almost hymn-like optimism surfaces that suits the song structures well.