Ólafur Arnalds – “For Now I Am Winter”

One of the items I was on the lookout for during Record Store Day was the limited edition (of 1,000) vinyl of Ólafur Arnalds’ 2013 release For Now I Am Winter.  I kinda figured this would be more of a European release since Arnalds is from Iceland, and when I didn’t see it at Easy Street or Silver Platters I wasn’t terribly surprised.  But Monday night while I was perusing the Easy Street website I was surprised to find they had one copy listed for sale as part of their RSD “left overs” and I knew I had to get it.  I debated driving over that night to pick it up, but given the time it would take and the cost of gas these days, paying the shipping and sales tax was a good economic decision.  Besides which it ensured I could have another cocktail that night after placing my order online, since there’s no rule against drinking and buying stuff on the internet, a fact for which many retailers and especially eBay are grateful.  A guy I know surfed eBay drunk one night and woke up to discover he’d bought a very used limousine.  True story.

The record arrived today and we put it on the turntable to give it a listen while we ate some ice cream.  We’d seen Arnalds live last year at Iceland Airwaves – people talk about him like he’s the Stephen Hawking of music over there, so we wanted to see what the fuss was all about.  Arnalds was on the piano, along with one electronics box, plus a violin player and a cellist.  After seeing the set I agree that Arnalds is insanely talented; and that many of his fans are unfortunately insanely pretentious, almost acting like those of us not already “in the know” about Ólafur were intruding on their private conclave.  But the violin player that night was absolutely amazing, and we were still glad to have seen Arnalds’ show.  Originally a punk rock drummer, over time he’s developed into sort of modern-minimalist-classicist.  Nice music to have on while you’re enjoying some ice cream after a hard day of work.

Holly and I both almost dropped out spoons at the same moment, when the first time a vocalist snuck out of the music about half way through side A.  Boy, that sure sounds a lot like Arnór Dan Arnársson from Agent Fresco, we agreed… and then it sounded even more like him… and lo and behold, the album credits “Arnór Dan” with the vocals, so it has to be him!  Which makes sense given that the two traveled to New York last week to do a couple of shows.  Wow – that got us listening a bit more attentively.  Arnór is crazy talented and, just as importantly, a really great guy, so it was cool to hear him on this.

As mentioned before, For Now I Am Winter is more or less a classical album – classical instruments for sure, though hardly orchestral in scope, and it’s actually very quiet and still.  Arnársson’s vocal sound flows in and out of a handful of songs almost like a unique instrument of its own, and my favorite song by far is “Old Skin” which features him prominently.  It’s great chill music, a worthy addition to anyone’s music library that will almost certainly warrant a play from time to time when the mood is quiet and relaxation is an imperative.  Regardless of the style(s) of music you primarily gravitate toward, you owe it to yourself to have a couple of high quality, soft albums like this on the shelf.

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