There is a moment in "Forgive Me" where Ida Maria's voice becomes so strained and anguished that you almost want to wince. The young Norwegian has a gift for conviction, and it flows in every vein of her body and lingers in each syllable she utters, regardless if a good or bad time is being had. It's during that moment in "Forgive Me" that I realized that her voice is the best instrument on the album. It's a lively growl that borders on raspy and gives credence to Maria's tales of drunkeness and remorse.
With her backing band -- no slouch by any means -- Maria blasts through her debut album, Fortress Round My Heart, with the rollicking fervor of a bar band that refuses to leave the stage until every single person in the crowd is good, drunk and merry. That tenacity shines the brightest on a blazing punk-fueled tune called "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" and the similarly raucous "Oh My God."
Those two songs bring out the best in Maria's voice and provide an amazing peak that the rest of the album doesn't quite live up to. There aren't any complete duds to be found -- and even a few more gems in "Louie" and "Queen of the World." The more conventional tracks prevent the album from reaching a true fever pitch, but even they are elevated by Maria's primal wail.
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