Review of Palme Album by Olof Arnalds

'Palme' is Ólöf Arnalds fourth album, released on near-legendary imprint One Little Indian. While retaining the distinctive and fragile vocals that lilted over her previous offerings, 'Palme' provides a rich smörgåsbord of less expected musical delights from muted electronics, yes electronics, to bossa nova beats.

Olof Arnalds Palme Album

Billed as Arnalds' most collaborative effort to date, the album offers up a collection of friends on writing and backing duties with familiar names including Gunnar Örn Tynes of Icelandic electro-folk band múm. Ólöf notes that "it took a lot of trust to let my collaborators so far into my musical expression and at times I found it a bit frightening. out of nowhere, the record I´ve always dreamed of making has become a reality".

The pull away from the acoustic leanings of previous albums 'Við og Við', 'Innundir Skinni' and 2013's 'Sudden Elevation' was allegedly fostered by an unfamiliar approach adopted in the production of this record; writing, performing and recording were all carried out simultaneously with musical ideas being drawn together, taken apart and reconstructed as they went along.

'Palme' brings together songs spanning many years of musical prowess with distorted electro-shuffle 'Half Steady', originally penned by the teenage Ólöf, brought to new life on this record, nestled amongst a strong suit of new offerings. While some of the tracks are downright peculiar, they are all exclusively heartfelt. 'Hypnose' is a gloriously wonky offering of off-kilter strings and drums, 'Patience' has a peculiar cinematic depth backed by a veritable choir of percussive voices, while 'Han Grete' is perhaps the strongest nod to all things acoustic.

All songs are carried by the strength and conviction of their intricate melody and quirky lyrical content. Ok, admittedly, like many distinctive vocalists, Ólöf may be an acquired taste, but always manages to tread the subtle line of being sweet but not saccharine and soaring but not shrill. Title track 'Palme' is one of the less immediately attention-grabbing songs but, with its strong vocal lead, burrows down into your subconscious. The subtle yet haunting duet of 'Defining Gender' plays out over naked strings, recorded to amplify their starkness and pull every beautiful hiss and crackle to the fore.

Warm, comforting and sweet. This is the kind of album that you want to have immediately available behind an emergency break-glass in case of a cold snap, to enjoy in front of a cosy fire with hot chocolate / brandy / appropriate loved one optional.


Carla Washbourne

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