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Ólöf Arnald - Sudden Elevation (Review)

Ólöf Arnald, Sudden Elevation

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

ICELANDIC singer Ólöf Arnald is nothing if not distinct. Her voice, in particular, is unlike too many other artists you’re likely to hear.

But it’s also potentially polarising. Some have described it as ethereal, others impossibly sweet. Yet, there’s something quirky about it too, which fits in with her style of songwriting. And this makes her not always convincing.

Hence, her third full album, Sudden Elevation, is a curious listen. It’s sometimes beguiling, sometimes whimsical, yet also distracting and difficult to fully get on with.

For every great moment, such as the intricately layered and generally quite captivating A Little Grim, there’s a moment that struggles to come together, such as Fear Less.

Taken as a whole, the album is notable for being Arnald’s first to be sung entirely in English. It was produced, once again, by long-time collaborator, Skúli Sverrisson, and was largely recorded in a late autumn 2011 stint in a seaside cabin in Hvalfjörður (literally ‘Whale-fjord’), in the west of Iceland.

It also firmly establishes her as an idiosyncratic songwriter and singer. Her closest comparison point may well be someone like Bjork, although Arnald’s melodies are warmer and perhaps more kooky, while still leaning towards the ethereal (no doubt influenced as much by her surroundings as her feelings).

When maintaining a brighter, breezier disposition, as on another highlight, Numbers And Names, she is genuinely appealing. Similarly, with Onwards And Upwards.

But evidence of her ability to polarise opinion and sometimes frustrate is to be found on songs like Call It What You Want (where the vocals sound almost wonky in places) and album closer Perfect, which doesn’t convincingly marry her vocals with the instrumentals.

Put together, this failed to convince as an enjoyable whole as much as I wanted to appreciate it more.

Download picks: A Little Grim, Numbers And Names, Onwards And Upwards

Track listing:

  1. German Fields
  2. Bright And Still
  3. Return Again
  4. Treat Her Kindly
  5. Call It What You Want
  6. A Little Grim
  7. Fear Less
  8. Numbers and Names
  9. Sudden Elevation
  10. The Joke
  11. Onwards And Upwards
  12. Perfect