I’ve been punching myself for a month now. Ever since I forgot to include Ólöf Arnalds (not Olofur Arnalds) in the “Year’s Best” lists, I’ve felt like I needed to make it up to her somehow. And that’s a symptom of her music; three cars and a conversation pass by your door and her voice can be lost in the background. It’s delicate but graspable, foreign but familiar. I remember when I first heard of her, I was watching a video of her being interviewed on a park bench, with her brand new child close in her arms. Her first album, Við og Við (101), was based upon her surprised reaction to her baby, how suddenly maternal and fiercely passionate she was towards him. In contrast, Arnald’s sophomore and newest album, Innundir Skinni (One Little Indian) is a walk around her old stomping grounds, a trip to reclaim the territory of a younger version of self. Some of the songs indicate profound success, but others are a discovery of how some things can’t ever be the same after your youth is memory. A little while ago, Arnalds was invited by fellow Iceland native Bjork to open for her collaboration with Dirty Projectors for Mount Wittenberg Orca. She was impressed, and offered to help on Arnald’s next album, which was produced by Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Rós. And so Innundir Skinni (translated as: Under Skin) is that much better, opening with pointed wonderings (“Vinur Minn”) and ending with wide seas (“Altt í Gúddí”). It’s really good.
Her video for “Surrender”, which features guest vocals by Bjork, is also one of the best I saw in 2010. Weeks of choreography and shot in a soaked forest, the intimacy of it is amazing.
(Innundir Skinni is available from One Little Indian Records)