“Acute dynamic shifts and cathartic spikes were common to early-’90s rock – Nirvana, PJ Harvey, the Jesus Lizard – but they have been out of fashion for much of the aughts. After the Strokes posed their question (apparently they were it), independent rock bands started keeping their sounds small, tempos brisk and styles tight (trousers inclusive). There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but I have been missing the odd firecracker. In ‘Oh My God’, 24-year-old Ida Maria Bÿrli Sivertsen sets off the charges with her voice, which swings from a humid mutter to an eyes-out, hair-down vomiting of air. Her band are also unafraid – they will jump off the cliff if she will.
“Sivertsen is able to do so much with her voice because she has two splendid, flexible phrases to work with. (‘Oh My God’ uses many, many words, but it reduces itself to two phrases through structure and pace. If this song was a corporate meeting, these two phrases would be our ‘takeaway’.)
“In the verses, Sivertsen repeatedly chants, ‘Find a cure for my life’, which is a lovely inversion. The words read like some grim existential imperative, but they sound fun and tempting when she grumbles them. (Sure! We’ll help you!) And then Sivertsen explodes, incriminating everyone around her as she dies. Or has the time of her life. Or does both. ‘Oh my God, you think I’m in control. Oh my God, you think it’s all for fun.’ And then she hammers home three words, as if we haven’t heard a goddamned thing she’s bled: ‘OH. MY. GOD.’ Impossible to abbreviate, no matter how much you love texting.
“I keep going back to ‘Oh My God’ because it keeps falling apart.”
Sasha Frere-Jones is the New Yorker’s pop-music critic. In 1991, he formed the band Ui, which toured America and Europe and released five albums. In 2006, he completed an album with the Sands.
Photography by Piera Gelardi/Refinery29