Ólöf Arnalds

Sudden Elevation

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Icelandic singer/songwriter Ólöf Arnalds' third studio album, the dreamy, delicate, and oddly regal-sounding Sudden Elevation, is also her first outing to be delivered entirely in English, revealing an artist who, like everybody else in the world, just wants to be loved. With a voice that falls somewhere between the fairy princess croon of Joanna Newsom and the breathy intimacy of Vashti Bunyan, it can be difficult at times to separate the melodies from the vocal affectations, but like her fellow countrywoman Bjork Guðmundsdóttir, it only takes a song or two before the two begin to get along famously. Musically, Arnalds presents a vision of folk music that is almost Elizabethan, suggesting a world of romance, intrigue, and pastoral, summery castle grounds, albeit ones where Jónsi is the court jester and the court composer is Sufjan Stevens instead of Thomas Tallis. That notion is best exemplified by two of the album's strongest cuts, the intoxicating opener "German Fields" and its equally beguiling mid-set partner in crime "A Little Grim," both of which utilize the singer/songwriter's myriad quirks in extremely naturalistic ways. Sometimes, as is the case on the lovely yet slight "Bright and Still," the simplistic lyrics transcend naiveté and venture dangerously close to obtuse, but for the most part, Arnalds shows a pretty decent command of the language, which would probably explain songs like "Treat Her Kindly," "Numbers and Names," and the sparse title track, all of which suggest a steady diet of Joni Mitchell albums.

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