Album Review: Ólöf Arnalds – Palme

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Ólöf Arnalds’ fourth offering is much more produced than her previous albums ,Við og Við (2007), Innundir Skinni (2009) and Sudden Elevation (2013). For the making of this album she was joined by her friends Gunnar Örn Tynes (founder of electro-folk collective, múm) and Skúli Sverrisson (worked with Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Blonde Redhead). Indeed she admits, “It took a lot of trust to let my collaborators so far into my musical expression and at times I found it a bit frightening”. The result is an accomplished collection of songs with Arnalds’ original voice once more captivating. It’s no wonder that she herself says, “the record I´ve always dreamed of making has become a reality.”

Some songs are very new such as the opening track while others have been around for much longer.  Turtledove is a song which perfectly embodies the electronic subtleties added to her music to enrich it. The intriguing titled Defining Gender with the wonderfully lush string accompaniment is one of the stand out tracks on this album. This duet is incredibly romantic and timeless in its depiction of intimacy.

Hypnose is suitably called as the guitar and electronics are repetitive while Arnalds’ vocals are quite sinister here, not like the subsequent track, Palme. The title track is enchantingly beautiful with gently swaying guitar arpeggios and a delicate rhythm accompanying the delicious melody by Arnalds. It was co-written by Skúli Sverrisson who also shares songwriting credits on Soft Living and Patience. The latter is the lead single and probably the most radio-friendly song on the album. With a tropical island sound, it is quite different from the other songs on the album and probably the most commercial sounding song here so it’s no surprise it was the first song to be released.

Half Steady is more electronic-based than most of the other tracks, no doubt influences by the presence of Gunnar Örn Tynes. Incidentally it was written by Arnalds’ while she was still in her teens. Han Grete is more similar to her music of previous recordings and features some very gentle accompaniment to her guitar and vocal. It is the sparsest song on the album and like a lullaby it could gently lull you to sleep but definitely not in a negative way.

Palme finishes with a richly produced song featuring an array of instruments including trumpet as well as a string section that makes the listener (at least me) wanting more than just the eight songs that this album consists of.  With this new release Ólöf Arnalds is certain to reach out to a wider audience as well as treating her fanbase to something different from her previous recordings.

Phil Soanes