The singer-songwriter formula is a tried and true one; take a poet and give them a guitar or piano, and you’ll have yourself the new indie bestseller. This isn’t the case for Czech artist Markéta Irglová, though. With several years of writing and an Academy Award for the song “Falling Slowly” under her belt, she manages to meet, exceed, and eventually break the expectations you would have for a singer-songwriter. After co-writing the music for Once, Irglová moved on to become a solo artist living out of Iceland, and it is with her second album, MUNA, that she truly shines as a musician.
MUNA is introduced with ringing church bells, a pipe organ, and a full choir singing the lyrics, “You can have whatever you dream of.” The album maintains the same feeling all the way through; most songs start out as a simple piano ballad, but evolve into large-scale orchestral pieces. In “Fortune Teller,” the fourth track, Irglová takes a break from Western music by introducing Aida Shahghasemi, an Iranian vocalist and Dap-player. “Fortune Teller” has many Middle Eastern and Romani influences, including the instrumentation, chord structure, and Shahghasemi’s vocal solo.
The album reaches a major climax in “Without A Map,” a chilling song reminiscent of Evanescence’s “My Immortal”; what makes it special, though, is the buildup at the end in which the full symphonic section comes in to Irglová and the choir singing an arrangement of “The Lord’s Prayer.” The final song was all but a reprise of Irglová’s musical career, throwing in the chorus melody from “Falling Slowly” and finally ending with the same lyrics as the first song: “You can have whatever you dream of.”
From Broadway to concert halls to Icelandic mountainsides, this album paints a beautiful picture of faith, hope, and culture that seems to be missing in a lot of music these days. Markéta Irglová has taken the singer-songwriter formula and thrown it out the window for something so much more.