Olof Arnalds
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Olof Arnalds

Reykjavík, Capital Region, Iceland

Reykjavík, Capital Region, Iceland
Band Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Iceland has another fine musical export to help boost its economy."

While Olof (pronounced Oluff) Arnalds hasn't endured anything like the 30-year wait Vashti Bunyan endured until the reappraisal of her lost classic, Just Another Diamond Day, it has taken more than two years for the Icelandic songstress's own debut to be awarded a UK (and US) release.

Label issues aside - for there always are some - Bunyan's album dawdled in obscurity for much the same reason that this by her modern-day kindred spirit has: Arnalds' timid, autumnal folk has such an exquisite pallor and fragile heart that it'll make you reach for a protective dust sheet with which to wrap it in and tuck safely away.

Thankfully, though, it's been brought carefully out of the vaults. And just in time, too. Although it precedes Arnalds' upcoming second album Okidoki by just a few months, Vid Og Vid, produced by Sigur Ros' Kjartan Sveinsson, is hewn from a very different time in Arnalds' life. Similar in theme to Panda Bear's harrowing Young Prayer, Arnalds went into the studio in 2006 following the death of her father in an attempt to both unleash her grief and capture the raw emotion of that healing process without veering into gauche melodrama (we're looking askance at you, White Lies).

She does it wonderfully, too. Far less austere than Panda's howling account, Arnalds' is a sparse yet paw-soft collection that allows the sun, and her hopefulness, to warm the chilly loneliness of her songs. Throughout, the sometime Mum member picks prettily and insistently on Koto harp, lute and guitar, with accordion and trumpet weaving ghostly between each scrape of the fret-board and lilting melodies that tout an interest in folk music that reaches far beyond her own isle to Scotland, Japan and the Middle East.

The obvious references for such honest, unaffected melancholy are Bunyan and - thanks to a high, clear voice that gets confused for childish rather than alluringly guttural - Joanna Newsom, although there's nothing stately or grandiose about Arnalds. In songs such as Klara, she plays and sings with a rich, comely earthiness rather than wrist-twirling, fairy-informed whimsy and, even without translation, these are wonderfully comforting songs.

With a soon-to-arrive second album (inspired, we're told, by the emotional, melon-twisting experience of childbirth) it would seem Iceland has another fine export to help boost its economy. - BBC

"Olof Arnalds: lightweight music, heavyweight punch"

This is the first British release of the solo album by Icelandic singer/songwriter Olof Arnalds and it already has a swathe of solid indie credentials.

Arnalds has been a member of experimental collective Mum; she's won hearty praise from her labelmate Bjork; and this won an Icelandic Best Alternative Album award upon its original release in 2007.

Vid Og Vid (the title apparently translates as 'Now And Then') is produced by Sigur Ros multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson and its simple presentation enhances its appeal.

The elfin quality of Arnalds's voice is reminiscent of Joanna Newsom and her lithe, finger-picking guitar style is delicately supplemented by bass and brass on Klara, and harp on Orfeus Og Evridis.

This music seems to have a whisper-light touch yet it leaves a brilliantly deep impression. - Metro (UK)

"#87 Vashti Bunyan and Joanna Newsom fans, meet your new favorite mystic"

Olof Arnalds plays a gentle brand of folk music that won't strike anyone with a soft spot for Vashti Bunyan or Joanna Newsom as unfamiliar; her songs have an unusual way of freezing out the external world during the few graced minutes in which they're alive. Arnalds is all about subtle moments of breath-taking, stop-you-in-your-tracks beauty, and none of them owes to more than the simple aggregation of voice and guitar. Sometimes it's a lute or something else with strings, but the general pattern remains the same. In Englar Og Darar, Arnalds employs a dexterous finger-picking style made all the more intimate by the close-miked squeak of her hand changing chords; more striking is her voice - a high, round, fleshy coo that sounds both overwhelmed by wonder and weathered by regret. "Klara" makes good use of the lute and finds Arnalds climbing higher in pitch, while the title track makes for a prime singalong lure with a glorious "la la la" refrain. Arnalds has been known to stretch out and experiment (she used to sing in Mum), but Vid Og Vid answers to a kind of delicate loveliness that is in no way provisional - and certainly not fleeting. - eMusic

"Olof Arnalds - Vid og Vid"

Whereas folk has become somewhat of a by-word for shaky, broken-hearted lyrics, Olof Arnalds manages to breathe life back into a genre that has waived somewhat over the years with Vid og Vid (or "Now and Then" in English). That's not to say her lyrics aren't filled with the quaint wonderings of the heart that contemporaries sing about - given the album is sung in her native Icelandic, there's very little to decipher. It's a bit of a cliche, but it simply adds to the other-worldly feel of this truly breathtaking album, whilst freeing her from the restraints that speaking outside of your natural language must surely impose. Though it may have similarities to many of the hippy records of the late 1960's - Vashti Bunyan springs to mind instantly - it's a record to lose yourself in, especially when sung in such a beautiful, intricate tongue.

What's most shocking about this record is the sheer confidence that flows throughout. Her guitar in "I nyju husi" is massively simplistic, almost to the point of tedium, with the most subtle of backings from the violin and keyboard. But this is an album about returning back to basics. What's more, it simply doesn't relent - though the guitar is sometimes swapped for a harp, rarely is it furnished with any sort of backing. Credit has to be given then for it never slipping from being utterly captivating. With Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Ros producing the album, the temptation to lavish it with the huge orchestral backings that are the signature of their sound must've been great. Their hesitance to tread that path has definitely paid off, with the standout, and title track, "Vid og Vid" staying long in the mind.

Whereas her works with Mum are often experimental, this is too, but in an entirely different sense. Unlike most solo projects, there's a marked change in artistic direction, and the whole set-up of the album is based around exploiting the beauty of Olof's singing, which is pitch-perfect from start to finish. The fact that this album is only just getting a UK release (it debuted elsewhere in 2007) is bitter sweet. On the one hand, we've been robbed of this recording for over 2 years, but it also acts as the perfect stepping stone in waiting for the follow-up, due early 2010. If that is anywhere near as spellbinding as Vid og Vid, expect something special. - Line of Best Fit

"Olof Arnalds - Vid Og Vid"

Quite what it is in the water in Iceland is anyone's guess. Perhaps it is generations of sagas and isolation that make the population of 320,000 particularly predisposed to seeking solace and worship in music. Whatever it is, the contribution of the small north Atlantic island to music over the past decade or so has been disproportionately large. And with an ever growing roster of artists such as Olof Arnalds, the collective contribution seems to be slowing not one bit.

Arnalds has been working primarily as a vocalist with collective Mum, whose experimental soundscapes are not too far removed from what we have come to expect from the home of Bjork and Sigur Ros. Her solo debut, released in Iceland in 2007 and finally getting a release in the UK now, is quite a different kettle of cod.

From the opening bars of the sweetly plucked guitar on Englar og Darar, Vid Og Vid is a simple study of the folk-inspired singer-songwriter craft. There is a temptation to liken Arnalds to compatriot Emiliana Torrini, and while there are similarities, particularly in the vocals, Arnalds reliance on instrument and voice rather than samples and the mixing desk makes Joanna Newsom and Vashti Bunyan more telling comparisons.

Given that this reviewers' Icelandic stretches now to "og", extrapolated from a passing knowledge of Greek myth and the title of the harp-led orchestral telling of Orfeus og Evridis, the subject matter of the songs remains elusive. Imagined English words swim in and out of hearing, and one wonders if Arnalds is really singing about salmon and paraffin - almost certainly not. Although, given the pastoral similarities to Bunyan and Newsom, perhaps one really can hear lyrics about lax (salmon).

Part of the joy though is resisting the temptation to look to translations, and simply enjoy Arnalds' chiming, expressive, voice. On the title track Arnalds ends up chanting "La la la", but rather than a device to fill in space, the line sounds like exultation too great to be put into mere words in any language. Sometimes words are not enough, and sometimes language is unimportant to understanding.

The slower ballads such as Vittu At Mer and Nattsongur leave the listener's attention to drift through the second half of the album - perhaps the style becomes too familiar and an understanding of the words would help. All is not lost though, and the divine Moldin, with a sublime string arrangement and amazingly dextrous vocals, is a highlight of the album.

For an album's worth of songs from which one doesn't understand to engage and thrill as much as Vid Og Vid is no mean feat. This is pastoral folk of the highest standard, in which the songs sound both ancient and brand new at once - a real treat that bodes well for the imminent release of a second solo album.

- Peter Hayward - Music OMH

"Olof Arnalds - Vid og Vid"

(4/5 stars) A sometime member of Mum, classically trained Icelandic singer/multi-instrumentalist Arnalds might be Reykjavik's answer to Kate Bush. Produced by Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur ros, her debut is a spare, troubadour-like affair garnished with haunting, witch-child vocals. Bjork is a fan. - MOJO Magazine


LP - Vid og Vid (12 Tonar, 2007; One Little Indian, 2009)



Icelandic folk chanteuse Olof Arnalds has been a prominent figure in her native music scene for several years as a member of Mum. However it is Olof's solo debut, Vid og Vid that continues to garner widespread acclaim. Produced by Kjartan Sveinsson from Sigur ros, it won Best Alternative Album at the 2007 Iceland Music Awards as well as Record of the Year at Iceland's largest daily newspaper, Morgunbladid. Despite release only in Iceland, word of mouth earned Vid og Vid high profile plaudits in the U.S. including a #38 ranking in Paste Magazine's Top 100 Albums of 2007 and #87 in eMusic's Best Albums of the Decade poll.

Vid og Vid's recent Stateside popularity has seen Ólöf play with the likes of Blonde Redhead, Jonathan Richman, Björk and The Dirty Projectors. Her recent run of U.S. dates has been covered extensively with publications ranging from Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Village Voice and Time Out New York chiming in with praise.

One Little Indian is pleased to announce the Stateside release of Vid og Vid on January 12. The enhanced CD features a Vid og Vid Mini-Documentary shot in September 2008 when Olof debuted the album in full at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC.

Olof recently finished recording her second album, Okidoki at Sigur ros' Sundlaugin Studios with Kjartan Sveinsson producing once again. It's a more ambitious project than her debut featuring elaborate arrangements and vocals sung both in English and Icelandic. Okidoki will be out in Spring 2010.