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Revisited: Melisandre’s Very Real Indie-Pop Album

Carice van Houten, better known as the Red Woman, has a music career, too

Whether you’re a book-devouring Game of Thrones maester or a clueless TV-show-only neophyte with no goddamn idea who the Blackfish is, you might be aware that Melisandre, a.k.a. the Red Woman, a.k.a. Dutch actress Carice van Houten, is also an indie-pop singer of some (Dutch, mostly) renown. In light of her character’s recent upgrade from “frequently topless one-note fount of evil” to “frequently topless and apparently 400-year-old fount of compelling moral ambiguity, but at least the whole Jon Snow resurrection thing was dope,” let us now revisit her 2012 album See You on the Ice. (To dispense with this immediately: She is not topless on the cover, though she is, basically, pantsless.)

Your exposure here might be limited to bemusedly watching the video for “Emily,” which is a remarkably goofy rom-com sorta deal with a cheerful Phoenix-esque guitar riff and a cool bell-motif thing happening. But that song’s somewhat of a red herring — almost a trap, really, much the same way as, uh [Googles furiously] Walder Frey’s implied invocation of guest right led the Starks to their doom at the Red Wedding. Most of the rest of See You on the Ice is a weird, arty, Goth-haunted, torch-y exploration of shallow love and deep space and the comfort of eternity. (See You in the Ice would’ve been a cooler title, science-wise.) There is cause for concern when doomy, symphonic opener “Siren or the Sea” cranks up and Carice unveils a dainty, bright, Regina Spektor– or Ingrid Michaelson–indebted vocal style, twee and overenunciated, as though she’s knitting every syllable its own cute little sweater. But halfway through, an unnerving burst of Nine Inch Nails aggro synths kick over all the furniture in the room, and her voice deepens and darkens, and happily, your sense of normalcy and peace never quite recovers.


Weird album, man. “Something Funny” is an operatic ode to embracing the unfeeling randomness of the universe (”There is no plan, there is no grand design”) as a means of overcoming your goddamn commitment issues (“What’s in the way of giving into love?”). The lyrics make up for the ukulele. “Recovery Mission” is an alt-country shuffler with bizarrely soothing spoken-word verses:

They found water on Mars
Not much, but, surely substantial
About a pound of frozen tears’ worth
And as such was purely circumstantial

She also duets with ANOHNI (!) on the eerie “Particle of Light” and cosmic-folk lifer Howe Gelb (!!) on “Broken Shells,” both of whom would make excellent GoT characters, and both of whom sound like they’d warged into direwolves for the occasion. (Don’t @ me, maesters, in re: the plausibility of this.) If PJ Harvey had put out this album (with Air producing, maybe, somehow?), your coolest and most insufferable friend would still be talking about it.


If you’re coming into this thing with, uh, the average GoT viewer’s thirst for one-handed prurient thrills, please proceed directly to “You.Me.Bed.Now.,” which does indeed feature Carice breathily invoking the title, over and over and over, during the chorus, amid nervous drums and weepy strings, like a livelier, more priapic version of Drake’s Views. From there she descends into full-on jazzy supper-club fatalism, the lyrical mundanity of “End of the World” — ”I fed both your cats / And I watered your plants” — undercut by the intergalactic yearning in her voice. As a bald attempt at writing her own “My Funny Valentine,” she could’ve done worse, and you definitely would’ve. Let her live (for hundreds of years, apparently).



Final analysis: This is a better Lana Del Rey record than the last Lana Del Rey record, or at least you’ll nod off slower. The loping melody to “Time” is currently stuck in my head; the string blowout in the middle there is lush and cerebral and, probably, expensive. Maybe she got a Dutch grant of some sort, or maybe she pledges allegiance to, y’know, a higher power. I wish her and Guy Pearce (!!!) the best of luck with their imminent baby (!!!!). And yes, that joke has already been made, along with all the other ones.