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"Review- Don't Play this"

Outside of Bjork and Emiliana Torrini, however, female solo artists from Iceland are a pretty rare commodity, so Hera Hjartardottir is quite important in the scheme of things. Hera, as she is more simply known, has just released a new CD called Don’t Play This, and I’m here to tell you to ignore that directive (actually, the title is directed more to a sleazy ex who’s the subject of the most blunt song on the disc). Don’t Play This is a thoroughly ingratiating record that may represent Hera’s best chance so far to perk up ears in America. She’s already huge both in Iceland and New Zealand, and she divides her time between the two countries. The first thing I want to mention about this record is the sound. Hera and her co-producer Godmundur Petursson have captured an uncommonly warm ambience that gives the performances a live immediacy, but it even goes beyond that—there is a crystalline purity to the sound of this record that can’t easily be described. It’s there in the clean, sweet, ringing chords Hera plays on her acoustic guitar, in the gentle resonance of her vocals and in the effortless simplicity of the arrangements. This is a healthy-sounding record, and you can interpret that however you want. Opening track “Feathers in a Bag” is already a hit in Iceland, and it’s a delightful tune. The combination of Hera’s chipper vocal, peerless trumpet playing by Kjartan Hakonarson and some economical guitar strumming is irresistable. Gosh, how nice it would be to hear something like this on American radio! The song “Chocolate” may be the most sincere love song to the sweet stuff ever written, and in my alternate universe, this tune would be adopted by Hershey or Nestle to accompany images of milk chocolate poured out of handsome silver containers. “I don’t know if anything that’s perfect can exist/But I do know that chocolate feels like…really being kissed/So if you’re feeling empty, let your worries fly away/You know that there’s something that can brighten your day,” Hera sings, adding the yummy chorus “Chocolate, it melts the pain away.” Nothing complicated here, just the kind of disarming, smile-inducing simplicity that Hera carries off as sweetly as the candy she obviously enjoys. “Muddy Shoes” is a tougher song, a basic three-chord acoustic rocker about owning up to some unspecified naughty behavior, with Hera wryly enumerating the kind of amenities she wants for her metaphorical “burial”: “Just put my coffin in the corner/And over there, the sofa and TV/And the lazyboy by the digital bigscreen/So I can see the sunrise and the sea…” Very catchy song, indeed. The title track and “You Make Me Angry” are edgy tunes dealing with deceitful lovers. There’s a Kristin Hersh-like intensity to the latter song, although the lyrics are more direct—and the former tune doesn’t even attempt to disguise its venom although it’s funny in places (“The cat has more respect for the bird/Then I do for you…If you ever get another kiss/I hope you choke on it…”). There are two achingly sad ballads about lost loved ones: “Adrian” could be interpreted in several different ways—from a mother to a son, one friend to another friend that has gone away or grown apart, a woman whose sweetheart died or fell out of love—it’s not clear, but Hera sings it like she had to practice not crying several times to get a clean performance (which she most assuredly renders here). Lines like “When I was younger he was my king/He was my angel, my everything/He rescued me, he loved me and saved me from sin” may not sound that deep, but Hera’s delivery is so disarmingly sincere that the song keeps you emotionally involved to the last. “Where is Your Baby” pushes the poignancy meter into the red; it’s nothing less than a lament for a friend whose baby died in childbirth. The acoustic guitar drips with emotion, and Hera’s vocal is loving and empathetic: “Everything was ready and everything was right/And everyone waited for that very special night/But some things just aren’t meant to be…Maybe, she was meant for another place.” No one who has been through that sort of tragedy could stay dry-eyed through this song, and I almost didn’t, myself. After that emotional wallop, Hera ends the album with one of the best “odes to my guitar” ever written, which somehow attains an even greater power by its concluding spot on the record. “To My Guitar” is a folksy stomper in the stylistic vein of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time”—a genuine love song from a girl to her guitar. It miraculously avoids cliché through Hera’s absolutely breezy delivery and the unquestioned intimacy of the lyrics, which convey that this simple musical instrument is not only a best friend, but often a lifesaver for the songwriter. And that’s another thing you take away from listening to this record: that Hera is an absolutely dedicated musician, one who lives and breathes music because she has to. Hera’s vocals never sound forced; there’s a sort of Zen-like vibe in her voice (and production!) that can take getting used to for ears accustomed to big, slicker types of singers. But Hera’s gentleness is beguiling, and she conveys gratitude for the gift of being able to share her musical self-expression. Lovely, centered, open-hearted and professional in every way, Hera is a small treasure who truly deserves to be heard outside her home countries, and hopefully Don’t Play This represents a step in that direction.

http://www.herasings.com/media/playback.html - PLAYBACKSTL.COM

"Fantastic vocals and Power"

This is a fantastic album from an artist not known much here is the UK. What you get in this album are fantastic vocals (if you like K T Tunstall, Norah Jones, Bjork - you will love this) without any over production and fluff that you might expect. The power and anger on "Don't Play this" and the power of the voice on "Wings" are wonderful, along with the first two songs, "Feathers in a Bag" and "The Devil and Me" which will stay in your head long after they have ended. Add some Calypso with Deja Vu and your enjoyment will be complete. This artist has much more to give and there is more power to come from her recordings. I am waiting for the next album. - cdbaby.com

"You must buy this CD"

I had never heard of Hera before and happen to hear her clip of "Dont Play This" on the SXSW website. I knew then that I needed her CD. I was directed to CDbaby.com and bought that CD that day. It has been about 2 weeks now since I have had it and it hasnt left my CD player...unless I am bringing it to work or in the house to listen to. Great CD... The life experiences that Hera sings about give me the goosebumps- she has a way with lyrical magic. - cdbaby.com

"Scintillating and soaring, acoustically clean with rich images."

Hera's music sparkles. Standout qualities on this CD are precise diction, accurate tonal shifts to reflect song mood and an integrated instrumental backing that is acoustic rather than electronic. A variety of influences are detectable in this collection of original ballads composed around life-developing situations, but the musical treatments are orignal and captivating. For this listener the optimistic cast to the songs (and the way it is portrayed), where life's reversals are but stations to the future, is joyous. (The forward looking 'You make me angry' is delightful and Hera's conception of an after-life - in 'Muddy shoes' - really appeals.) And like good ballads, these airs stay in your head. PS: Make sure you catch the hidden piece of whimsy after the final ode to Hera's instrumental confidente and muse. - cdbaby.com

"Don't play this -by Hera"

Iceland’s Hera Hjartadottir has been making her music for a while and it shows.

The relaxed vibe and impassioned jazzy stylings of “Feathers in a Bag” are instantly appealing. It’s more like Rickie Lee Jones than other Icelandic singers one could mention.

“Chocolate” is a sweet little ode to just that, Hera’s singing is infectious.

She dedicates a song to her guitar and sings of anger intriguingly. Hera is one to seek out, and her new album is a treat. Do play this.

Posted on March 21, 2007 - http://www.collectedsounds.com/cdreviews/dontplaythis.html

"Hera (Iceland)"

For many years Icelandic music was synonymous with rocker legend Bubbi Morthens, and no one else. Then the Sugarcubes erupted with eccentric singers Einar Örn and Björk, and after that Gus Gus and Sigur Ros with their made-up language. Now we turn our eyes and ears towards the Icelandic mainstream again, namely Hera. The 22-year-old classical guitarist is one of the most talented songwriters to ever come out of Iceland, and her music is soft, sparse and immensely beautiful. - SXSW World magazine


Albums released:

Not So Sweet - also available on iTunes
Not your type
Hafid thennan dag
Don't play this - also available on iTunes
Live at AL's




Christchurch based singer/songwriter HERA has been living, writing and performing in New Zealand for 12 years now whilst carving out a very successful career in her native country of Iceland. Not an easy task given the global separation, but one that was richly rewarded in 2003 when she was named Best Female Artist at that year’s Icelandic Music Awards, a category dominated for the previous 10 years by global superstar Bjork! Hera’s Icelandic debut album also delivered her a Gold Record there being backed up by 37 live concerts in two months, the most extensive Icelandic tour ever undertaken by a solo female artist...

A prodigious talent from an early age, Hera began playing classical guitar in Reykjavik at the age of 8 building an impressive collection of her own self-penned songs by 13… In 1994 her family moved to New Zealand where she started playing her own shows in and around Christchurch, grabbing some key support slots on visiting tours including Goldenhorse & Glenn Tilbrook. Hera’s first two albums were independently produced, published and distributed in New Zealand, slowly helping to build her a small but very dedicated fan base.

In 2002 aged just 18, one of Hera’s tracks from those early recordings, “Itchy Palms”, was performed as part of a live-to-air phone interview on Icelandic radio and fortunately spotted by the producer of a planned Icelandic film production “Hafid (The Sea)”. He tracked Hera down in NZ and “Itchy Palms” was chosen as the film’s title song with Hera being invited to perform it live at the Icelandic Premiere. The film eventually went on to win eight Edda Awards (Iceland’s Oscar equivalent) being distributed in over 30 countries worldwide.The music video with clips from the movie was also featured on the global DVD release. With the track appearing at a very poignant part in the film, it quickly gained strong radio and TV support propelling Hera into the Icelandic media limelight. With all this media activity, relocation to her native Iceland became essential, so at the end of 2002 Hera moved back to Reykjavik…A recording deal was secured with Skifan Records and her career was launched!

Live shows continued through 2004 & 2005 with supporting slots for both Nick Cave and Joe Cocker in Reykjavik’s biggest concert arena. Her next album “Don’t Play This” released mid 2005 was supported by another multi-date national tour with the Icelandic music website - www.tonlist.is - featuring 8 of Hera’s songs on their Top 10 Most Played List simultaneously! She also performed shows in Belgium, Holland, Italy and UK including a slot at the famous (and rain-soaked) Glastonbury Festival. Hera ended off that year with a concert in one of the most remote places on the planet, Ammassalik in Greenland, creating yet another unique milestone for this talented and adventurous performer.

In 2007, after her return from the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin USA. Hera was awarded a New Recording Artist Grant from NZ On Air. Last September Hera teamed up in the Roundhouse studio with Wellington producer David Long (Fur Patrol, Lucid 3) to record a brand new song “Feels So Good”. The result is a delightful uplifting debut NZ single! She then teamed up with Director Andie Spargo making the music video, which was a huge success on the internet, and has been featured on one of the worlds most popular blogs ‘Cute Overload’

Now 25, Hera has returned to her her “other home”, after an extensive tour of Iceland, and playing once again at the Glastonbury festival 08, and two shows in Denmark, promoting her new Live album ‘Live at AL’s’ which was recorded May 16th this year at AL’s in Christchurch.

Iceland has given the musical world some diverse and wonderful musical success stories in Bjork, Mezzaforte and Sigur Ros to name a few. HERA is the next in a very talented and uniquely gifted line of artists from the Opposite Side of the World.

That’s the story so far. In 2008 it seems there is a lot more to come… If this is your first time, be prepared to be charmed, intrigued, moved & occasionally shocked by the music of HERA!

NEW: To view the 'Feels so good' Music video.. go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TAtNjdQ9fM