IVA and the New Young
(Karmic Fray Records)
Swedish-American songstress IVA and her band the New Young cover a surprising amount of territory across Traitor‘s four song tracklist, and while each track generally fits pretty neatly into their own archetype of late nineties airwave giant, they’re each such strong examples of those archetypes that it becomes difficult to criticize them for not completely re-imagining pop music as we know it.
“Immense Tenderness” starts things off and is the soft folk pop song of the bunch, largely held together with light strums of acoustic guitar and IVA’s tender vocal performance. However, while this description may be accurate, it’s reductive, as there are numerous flourishes that help it to stand out among its ilk. Clear finger snaps tickle the eardrums, brightly shimmering arpeggiated synths lead the song out of its first verse, and the chorus features the only vocal duet harmonies of the entire EP (with co-writer, guitarist, and producer Jaron Olevsky). The biggest calling card of the song however has to be its operatic intro and outro. As IVA is a classically trained singer and vocal coach, Traitor can technically be categorized as classical crossover, though this background is most directly flexed on this track alone with her siren-like highs reaching their peak at the late climax, and Trey Pollard’s lush choral and string arrangements facilitating the grandiosity of its sound.
Next is “Young”, and this is the fun, upbeat rocker of the bunch. “Young” is pretty horny, in a mature but playful kind of way, where IVA sings of being asked to “cross a line” with a younger man. Where the rhythm section of the New Young took a bit of a backseat on “Immense Tenderness”, they get to let loose a bit here. As such, “Young” is the resident ass-shaker of Traitor, and who doesn’t like a good ass shaker? There’s also a very tasteful, brief, but pretty kick ass electric guitar solo a bit past the two and a half minute mark, which caught me off guard considering its total absence up until that point. This is a consistent strength of Traitor: never putting itself in a position where it might overextend itself but always setting up little surprises to keep you engaged.
“Blue” is, among a very strong set, the standout, and is the traditional ballad. It’s the hardest song here to put into a corner and thus the most fascinating. The strings here strike a compelling balance between neofolk and chamber pop, simultaneously lush and haunting, backed by a gentle piano melody. Then it seamlessly morphs into a country song with gorgeous steel guitar, before shifting back once more. Something that will always be difficult to communicate through text is why an arrangement like this works as well as it does, even when it’s almost like there’s one song inside of another song. You’ll just have to listen yourself. This is also where IVA shows off the greatest vocal versatility, despite not featuring operatic vocals: the evocative phrasing and control she has over her voice are undeniable.
Lastly, we have “Red Sky”, the arena-ready power ballad. This is probably the least interesting of the four, but still far from anything that could be considered poor. Imagine, if you will, a generically great, epic, sweeping power ballad. That’s “Red Sky”. Thing is, you won’t really be picking it apart while you’re busy weeping and waving your lighter. Also, we’ll give it the bridge. The bridge is real good. And it sounds awesome. Then again, the whole EP sounds awesome.
Working out IVA and the New Young’s place in the broader spectrum of modern popular music is interesting. Had something of this style and quality been pushed out with solid marketing 20 years ago, we might be talking Grammys and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, not whether Traitor is worth your time on our humble site. We don’t know if Traitor is ‘timely’ in 2019, where edgy teens and gimmicky genre mashups dominate the minds of the masses. What we do know is that good doesn’t become not good solely with the passage of time. Traitor is very good. It would’ve been good as a 1997 release that took over the airwaves, and it’s good as an under the radar 2019 release that took over my earbuds.
Favorite tracks: “Immense Tenderness”, “Blue”
Rating: Strongly Recommended
You can purchase IVA and the New Young’s Traitor on CD here. Digital is a bit more complicated: Traitor has technically not been released as an EP digitally, but each of the four songs on it were released individually as singles. Streaming the EP is made easy with this Spotify playlist, but for digital purchase, you’ll need to buy each single separately through iTunes. The tracklist in order is: “Immense Tenderness”, “Young”, “Blue”, “Red Sky”.