Singer-songwriters are musicians who perform their own music for the same reasons that some poets publish on a vanity press. Some are great songwriters, but have
terrible voices. Others have great voices but can't accompany themselves or write for instrumentation. Some can play and sing well but should have their pens and scores confiscated.
A competent -- never mind talented -- singer-songwriter requires a delicate balance of intelligent songwriting, strong, distinctive voice and capable accompaniment (although some things can always be
fudged a bit). Canadian Maren Ord, with her supple soprano, nails the balance handily, like a gym virtuoso on a floor routine.
Ord has played at some music festival called Lilith Fair, and she's on the same label as the festival's founder, Sarah McLachlan. However, while she's still very girly, Ord's voice is stronger and more substantial than McLachlan's pipes. Her lyrics are strongly rooted in Top40 pop sensibility; they mostly tackle relationships -- broken or unrealized -- and are fairly abstract, the better to make
everyone relate to the words. She's accompanied mainly by her own piano and guitar work, with further assistance some high-profile musicians culled from other bands (Jerry Marrotta of the Indigo
Girls' band played drums, Brian Minato from Sarah McLachlan's touring ensemble played bass, etc.). Although Ord only recently taught herself guitar to round out her piano-playing, her grasp of the instrument is solid; she doesn't sound like a newcomer. The arrangements are fairly simple and straightforward, and the production is clean, not gooey -- but as Waiting was produced by Stephen Hague, that shouldn't be surprising. The songs are so uncluttered that clean production suits the music precisely. Tolstoy always claimed that "There is no greatness where there is
not simplicity, goodness, and truth," and although that meant he wound up wearing a big white dress, he may have had something there. Nowhere is the simple beauty of Ord's sound more
apparent than in "Perfect", in which the chorus goes "What if the world were a little more perfect?/ Would you stop crying or would you take the leap?" The guitars here rock harder than any teen chanteuse has rocked before.
If recent teen movies (Bring It On) are anything to go by, everyone loves bubbly cheerleaders just as much as always. Ord is a bit deeper than that, but she has the
shiny teeth and bright smile of most Kirsten Dunst types out there...and she can sing, too. Maren Ord makes music worth Waiting for.