Sorry it’s been quiet on the posting front recently. It seems like I’ve been on the road for most of the last six weeks or so… which is not quite the case, but I’ve been to Kansas City, Ireland, and Los Angeles (which of those is not like the others…), so it has been pretty busy. And there might be even more travel on the horizon. But such is life. Because most places I go have record stores. So bring it.
So I got a package in the mail the other day from my friends at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records. Back in 2012 Ingvar turned me on to a 10″ (“K2R” b/w “Whiplashes”) by a newly formed band called Halleluwah, a two-song sort of surf / psych / hip hop blend project by Sölvi Blöndal of Quarashi fame, who were were kind of like what the Beastie Boys would have sounded like if their influences were surf and old-timey (in other words, awesome). It was a cool record, cool enough for one of the songs to earn a spot on a comp CD Holly and i put out for our friends the following year.
When I saw Halleluwah was doing a live set at Iceland Airwaves in 2013 I was stoked. I was looking forward to some hippity hop and up tempo good times. But what I got… well, it was something different. Sölvi had done a 180 on me, with the set featuring some speakeasy-style influenced beats accompanied by a captivating female singer. WTF is this? It wasn’t what I was expecting, that was for sure. But it was… amazing.
Fast forward to March 2015 and Halleluwah’s first full-length album dropped, a self-titled nine-song CD, and I knew I had to have it. In May I asked about it at Tower Records in Dublin but with no luck, so I bit the bullet and hit up my friends at Lucky Records and ordered a copy from them. Ingvar, of course, had it in my mailbox about a week later.
And I’ve listened to it probably 10 times in the last two weeks.
Now, normally I don’t review CDs. Because the blog is called Life in the Vinyl Lane. But I do make exceptions. Halleluwah is one of those exceptions. Because it’s that damn good.
I suppose if I had to provide a one sentence description of this album it would be:
“Halleluwah is what electronica in the Roaring 20s would have sounded like if it was fronted by an Icelandic version of Edith Piaf.”
The above is pretty simple, but difficult to comprehend. The beats are generally mellow, though Sölvi’s self-professed love of surf and psych comes through clearly in songs like “Spin” and, most vividly, “Nico.” The soundscapes are lush and dense, from the deeply rich opening track “Move Me” right into “Blue Velvet,” which makes me want to take a huge hit of nitrous just like Dennis Hopper in the movie of the same name and just melt into my couch while I listen to the incredible voice of Rakel Mjöll.
I’m not sure how I got so deep into this post without mentioning Mjöll, whose voice alternates between innocent (the previously mentioned “Blue Velvet”) and sultry (“Call Your Friends”) across Halleluwah. This is the kind of voice that could have made Sölvi abandon his K2R style for something totally different, lounge music for the electronica age. I believe she was the singer when we saw them live in 2013, but I’m not 100% sure… regardless, without her, this CD doesn’t exist. Period. The music and the voice blend perfectly, effortlessly.
“Dior” was, I believe, the first single, and I can understand why. Mjöll’s voice is smokey and playful as it dances in and out of seemingly simple but deceptively deep soundscape. But after repeated listenings… I feel like Pierce Brosnan in the Thomas Crown Affair who, when asked about his opinion on a Monet painting simply says, “It’s very nice.” It’s very Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Roman Holiday… so very fancy Continental, like it’s name. But despite how good it is, it probably falls outside of my personal “top 3” on Halleluwah. “Nico” steals the show with it’s simple surf guitar keeping time while Mjöll’s echoey voice rides over it like a sexy wave, rounded out by “Move Me” and “Blue Velvet.” That’s no dis on “Dior,” which would easily be a top 2 track on most albums; but Halleluwah is deep, my friends, and there’s a lot to choose from.
As near as I can tell Halleluwah isn’t available in the US or on iTunes. I can’t point you to a free version of it anywhere, though at least one song is on YouTube – “Blue Velvet” (and check out “K2R” from the 10″ HERE by way of comparison!). You’re going to have to work for this one. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. You just have to want it bad enough. And this one is worth it.