Ólöf Arnalds is an Icelandic singer and multi-instrumentalist. Classically educated on the violin, viola and self-taught on guitar and charango, Ólöf's most distinctive asset is, nonetheless, her voice. A voice of instantly captivating, spring water chasteness possessed of a magical, otherworldly quality that is simultaneously innocent yet ancient ("somewhere between a child and an old woman" according to no less an authority than Björk).
While she has been favourably compared with the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Judee Sill and Kate Bush, Ólöf's approach to making music remains highly individual: playful but intimate; accessible and uplifting, yet deeply personal and suffused with a timeless mystique that goes beyond the puckish inscrutability of her native tongue. Ólöf has also quickly proved herself as a magnetic, utterly self-assured stage performer, reliant as much on screwball humour, vaudevillian charm and even outright bawdiness, as much as the contrasting delicacy of her song delivery.
Recorded by Sigur Rós's Kjartan Sveinsson, directly to tape, Ólöf's 2007 debut, Við Og Við is an album of ingeniously adorned whole take performances, whose charged minimalism creates an inimitable world of its own. The album would duly accrue a sheaf of accolades at home, including Best Alternative Album at the Iceland Music Awards and a Record of the Year gong from Iceland's principal daily newspaper, Morgunblaðið.
Upon it's international release in 2009, it would elicit gushing notices from the likes of The New York Times, Vanity Fair, NME and SPIN and prompt MOJO to herald Ólöf as "Reykjavik's answer to Kate Bush." Time Out New York described her having "… the kind of voice that can silence a room, such is its sweetness", while Rolling Stone described her songs being "fragile as tiny china swans". Meanwhile, Paste magazine would dub Við Og Við "impossibly lovely" and vote it Number 38 in its Top 100 album list. Not to be outdone, eMusic named it among the 100 best albums of the decade.
Recorded throughout 2009, Ólöf's sophomore album, Innundir skinni was produced once again at Sundlaugin by Kjartan Sveinsson and co-produced by Davíð Þór Jónsson. The album boasts more extensive instrumentation and additional players than on Við Og Við but feels effortless; the additional musicians' performances woven into the body of the songs, never overpowering them, with Ólöf's typically empyrean vocals upfront and proud. The album includes both Ólöf's first recorded songs delivered in English and her first duets - with Ragnar Kjartansson (Crazy Car) and Björk (Surrender).
It's her spontaneity and charm, as much as two albums of sublime song craft and ineffable, unforced Icelandic charisma, which make Ólöf Arnalds such a uniquely appealing musician into whose confidence we listeners can't help but want to be taken.