It’s always exciting to see a new album come out of Iceland. One tends to get caught up in the fantastical folk tradition of this fascinating country, one which has left a very quirkily shaped mark on the world of pop in the forms of ice queen Björk and gargantuan post-rockers Sigur Rós. A new name to add to the typical list is Ólöf Arnalds. A seasoned folk musician who has mingled in these mystic circles of Icelandic music legends for a while but like magma in one of the island’s dormant volcanoes, has never quite erupted from the underground.
Her fourth album, Palme, is instilled with the same Nordic sorcery and idiosyncrasy that many have been entranced by in recent years. Björk can be heard in her quivering, sprite-like vocal and hints of folktronica, but Arnalds also draws on the medieval folk history of Iceland through elegant acoustic instrumentation and peculiar timeworn melodies. Her songs are beatific, but also grounded by strong lyricism as on the powerful feminist ballad ‘Defining Gender’.
However, this is the kind of vibe we have come to expect from an Icelandic record. Last year, this writer positively reviewed Asgeir’s second album ‘In The Silence’ in the student magazine. Palme seems to be cast from the same mould of peculiar folk, a genre which has become pretty boring, frankly. The record seems to conform to the country’s musical stereotype, and ends limply after just half an hour of good but painfully middle-of-the-road-songs. Maybe Iceland isn’t that hot anymore.
Why not just listen to ‘Debut’ again?