CD REVIEW: Iiris – ‘The Magic Gift Box’
By: Ben Norman
In music, when it comes to a new artist, we always dissect them by who they sound like. We say stuff like, “If Barbra Streisand and David Bowie had a child raised by Slash, that’s what this would sound like,” and people nod and go ‘hmm,’ and the artist gets shoved into a specific categorization despite the fact that there’s very little in common between Stresand, Bowie, or Slash. And so, in my opinion, it’s a disservice to a new artist to categorize them so, and yet… it’s almost as if no one can relate to a new artist unless they can familiarize themselves by that association.
And so it goes with Estonian singer Iiris, whose music is gorgeous and beautiful and affecting, that to properly communicate the sound she creates, I must use such a comparison. But to her credit, it is sort of amazing that I can say that she’s got the quirk and vocal distinction of singers like Bjork and Kerli, the dark and twisted side of Marilyn Manson, and the pop sensibilities of Imogen Heap on her side. In listening to the album it was brought to mind another recently quirky electronic pop offering from a few years ago, The Green Children. Now the European pairing of the Green Children released a few very engrossing tracks and then subsequently disappeared from the scene, but to get a good idea of what to expect with Iiris, it might be worthwhile to check them out as well. This allows for a large collection of tracks that set their phaser to ‘stunning’ (thanks, Mr. Sulu), and hopefully build a steady platform for little miss Iiris’ continuing music career.
Firstly, content on this album spans a few years. Iiris has been active with some of this material since 2010, specifically the song “Astronaut” which she used to compete in Eurovision. But it wasn’t until late 2011 that Iiris made her international mark, giving the world a dark and twisted “Melyse.” Comparisons to Kerli were easy- vocally the two ladies definitely complement each other. And Iiris’ music almost seems to continue the direction Kerli seemed to be going with her first album and subsequently abandoned in favor of her more mainstream electronic sound. So kudos immediately to Iiris (although no disrespect to Kerli), both in the style of her lead single, but also for having a song like this in her. Further kudos to the artist for the follow-up track “Weirdo,” reminiscent to Merril Bainbridge’s “Mouth” in certain aspects but definitely a slower and more pop-conscientious track than the aggressive “Melyse.” The two tracks are quite dissimilar, begging the question why Iiris would set the stage with “Melyse” and continue with “Weirdo.” The answer is simple: she can. Her songs are strong enough that, with the exception of a few tracks that require a few additional listens, the content on The Magic Gift Box is just that consistently good.
The main thing to keep in mind with this album is just how much territory it covers through its length. It spans faster songs like “Melyse” to slow, undulating tracks like “Glimmering,” “Astronaut,” “Circle,” and “Unicorn.” And in the middle, we have poptastic songs like “Just Like An Ogre” (imagine requesting THAT on the radio), “Gummybear,” and “Song In A Box.” So in that respect, The Magic Gift Box is as much a proclamation of just what Iiris has to offer as well as giving a variety of music purely for your enjoyment, despite whatever mood you might be in. Even some of her poppier music has a darker twinge to the production that allows the twisted little soul in Iiris to come forth, such as in “Big Bat,” “Curaga,” and “Merman,” or just plain disturbingly ethereal like “Mirage.” And in truth, every song just listed is a stand-out track for one reason or another. Even if The Magic Gift Box never hits, and Iiris pops just this album out, it is a huge contribution to anyone lucky enough to acquire it. It’s packed full of quality, engrossing tracks that should captivate and delight listeners for years to come. Definitely a notable release.
Image courtesy of EMI.