Icelandic singer/songwriter Olof Arnalds piches up here with her first full length English Language album of songs (her 2011 EP 'Olof Sings', a five song set for voice and acoustic guitar was as pretty as a picture) and it's a delightfully beguiling affair.
Ms Arnald's voice has a fragile but bewitching presence; high in timbre and warm in tone, it inhabits these twelve compositions like a benign elfin being. Her folksy sensibilities, evident in these spare arrangements for guitar, piano and occasional string embellishments, have an almost medieval quality at times. One can easily imagine her performing in a glowing firelit banqueting hall for Queen and court; a minstrel clad in furs singing for her supper.
'Sudden Elevation' is a gentle affair inhabiting, to some degree, similar territory to that of Joanna Newsom, early Joni Mitchell and Melanie Safka but there's more than enough individuality on show in her sinewy melodies and quirky diction for us to warm to her for her own singular idiosyncratic merits. This truly is enchanting stuff.
Numbers which deserve especial mention include the winsome but magical 'Return Again'; 'Treat Her Kindly', a delightfully melancholy song wherein Mme Mitchell's influence is perhaps most evident; 'Numbers and Names' with its quasi-Carribean rhythm and jolly harmonic decorations and 'Onwards and Upwards', a sublimely simple but affecting invention.
A benificent album to while away the evening hours.
Everything about this singer is magical. I don't know why it's taking her so long to be better known across the musical world. I fell in love with her sincerity and her emotional generosity - and her exquisite, gentle, passionate voice - from the very first moment. The songs are just love songs, but new-minted and as intimate as any songs I've ever heard. Before, they were in Icelandic. Now they're in English, with no loss of originality or authenticity. Her melodies are effortless, and wonderful. Do people still write melodies? Olof does. Whatever happens, I hope she stays true to her gift. She's a reminder in these cynical, wintry times that it doesn't all have to be like this. A commentator on the cover of her first CD speaks of the courage with which she pursues her art - and she gives the listener courage too, or at any rate this listener.
I first came across her EP of cover versions which is worth a listen. This, however, is the most beautiful album I have heard for a long time. It takes a few listens to get used to her distinctive voice but once you get there you will realise what a triumph this is. Don't miss it.