When it comes to Icelandic music, the few exports that gain exposure on these shores tend to go down with something close to unabashed devotion – from Bjork (and The Sugarcubes) and Sigur Ros to the less well known Mum, 2012 sensations, Of Monsters & Men and the less visible but no less talented Ólafur Arnalds. What then of the latter’s cousin Ólöf Arnalds then?
Fans of Mum may recognise the name as she toured with the band for a period before embarking on a solo career – ‘Sudden Elevation’ is her third album and is being funded through Pledge Music, which works in the same way as Kickstarter.
It falls more into the trad-folk genre and there is very little experimentation here but it all seems effortlessly put together, which instils it with a certain warmth that makes listening to the record a pleasure. It’s highly accomplished and her tender vocal fits the softly picked guitars, brushed drums and strings perfectly.
Lyrically, Arnalds has opted to write exclusively in English for the first time, which should open her up to a wider audience. It’s a wise decision and the poetic, bittersweet lyrics evoke a deep yet unstable love – of a partner and the wider world. “Break of dawn I feel as if my body has returned,” she sings on ‘Return Again’. “Motionless I memorise the beautiful, burning sands of your presence,” increasing the positive emphasis before: “How difficult of me to fall in love with you,” devastates.
The pace remains slow and reflective throughout, the melancholic mood hugely effective on the listener.
The multi-layered vocals of ‘A Little Grim’ help make it a stand-out track. “Let me assure you love will turn out some way,” sings Arnalds with a beguiling confidence.It’s the sort of album that would sound at home on Fence Records, and there are strong notes of Joanna Newsome and Sufjan Stevens evident throughout.
Three albums into a wide and varied career, this is the sound of Arnalds examining life and it turns out that in spite of whatever may conspire tear her apart, she’s happy.
Released on February 4th through One Little Indian in Europe and 5th March in the US.
Posted by Kevin Scott.