Lovers Prayers

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Ida, the New York band that's built its sound on the sadness of love and clean harmonies, returned to Polyvinyl for Lovers Prayers, the group's eighth full-length, which offers every promise the others provided: pretty melodies, carefully conceived songs, and plenty of gentle, sweeping instrumentals that drone lightly under Dan Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell's careful vocals. Longtime collaborator Tara Jane O'Neil contributes her guitar and drums here, go-to cellist Jane Scarpantoni stays busy on tracks like "For Shame of Doing Wrong" (a Richard & Linda Thompson cover), and Warren Defever returns to produce the album, which was recorded at the Band's Levon Helm's studios (the drummer also plays on "First Light"), but this is all backdrop to the couple's voices -- with some help from Karla Schickele, who sounds a lot like Aimee Mann and complements the others nicely -- which lay softly but effectively over one another, guiding the songs in their earnestness. Littleton, interestingly, often takes the higher part (in the very Caetano Veloso-esque "The Love Below," for example), letting Mitchell's low whisper take the lead. The songs themselves are sweet, or sometimes bittersweet, reflections on love and life, but unlike other Ida albums, which often include less atmospheric pieces, Lovers Prayers hardly changes tempo or approach. Yes, "See the Stars" uses pedal steel and even has something of an electric guitar solo, "Worried Mind Blues," as the title suggests, uses standard 12-bar blues progressions off of which to build, and "The Killers 1964" (in reference to the Don Siegel film, and perhaps the only indie folk song to mention Ronald Reagan's acting career) offers its own variation to the album's overall approach, but most of the album moves along at a slow, steady pace, which has the unfortunate tendency to overemphasize the overly saccharine lines ("I love you more than a thousand suns, morning rain on a butterfly's wings," from the closer "Blue Clouds," for example). Still, the record's a lovely one, gentle and lush and subtly gorgeous, more than enough to make up for the occasional shortcoming.

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