Ólöf Arnalds

Innundir Skinni

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On her 2010 album, at least with its first song "Vinur Minn," Ólöf Arnalds makes a great claim to be the 21st century version of Isabelle Antena: building on her previous work with easy skill, there's a cinematic lushness to Innundir Skinni right out of the gate that feels almost like a travelog, on the one hand, or a series of intimate, personal reflections on the other. If most of the rest of Innundir Skinni tends toward the calmer side, then there's still that sense of an easygoing reach that's almost breezy throughout; Arnalds sounds engaged and wide-eyed rather than playing in a nook, and on a song like "Jonathon" there's even a slight sense of how she could find her own version of a pop hit if she ever wanted to (assuming that pop was defined by David Sylvian's "Orpheus"). Her shifting between English and Icelandic lyrics further emphasizes the dual nature of Innundir Skinni. When she sings "You got mojo, you got soul" on "Crazy Car" it seems like a strange intrusion at first, then more like a way to rework the tropes of the past into a delicate, understated meditation, with guitar and a bit of piano the only backing for her and Ragnar Kjartansson's singing. "Surrender" is another English-language high point, though in ways it's more because of the arrangement than the language, as you hear her slow building self-overdub on the chorus as the harp parts and Björk's immediately obvious cameo appearance. At points like "Vinkonur," there's a superficial similarity to performers like Joanna Newsom, but Arnalds' way around delicate arrangements and higher-pitched singing has its own distinct quality, and is, perhaps, a little less florid all around.

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