Ólöf Arnalds - Ólöf Sings

Satisfying filler before she returns with a collection of songs of her own.

‘Ólöf Sings’ is a stopgap collection of covers between Arnalds’ 2010 album ‘Innurdir Skinni’ and her new record that is due next year. But the five tracks it contains aren’t overblown X-Factor-style karaoke versions, all you have on this EP is a singer and an acoustic guitar.

Arnalds does little to tamper with the originals, although without the inclusion of any other instruments they do all have a striped back, folksy quality. And singing in English, she seems to take on the form of an Icelandic-inflected Joni Mitchell. Her accent does perhaps make the covers more charming than if they were sung by a native English speaker. Gently strumming along to Bob Dylan’s ‘She Belongs To Me’ she manages to sound both sincere and cute, a trait that could easily earn the cover a place on the soundtrack to a Wes Anderson film.

The other tracks are also by male singer-songwriters. A Gene Clark number is merged with ‘I’m On Fire’ by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond’s ‘Solitary Man’ was chosen after Arnalds heard the Johnny Cash version. As a more experimental musician, Arthur Russell could be be seen as an outsider among these names, but Arnalds chose his fairly standard country-folk song ‘Close My Eyes’ to be included here. The EP is rounded off with a track written by the Brazilian composer Caetano Veloso.

It is nice to hear a singer play a handful of their favourite songs without morphing them into something they are not, and the crystal clear recording does make it a pleasure to listen to. However, these covers lack the emotion or creativity to make them standout among the various versions the originals. They pale in comparison to something like Cat Power’s ‘The Covers Record’, in which Chan Marshall retained the integrity of the originals while translating them through a tortured soul to make them express new emotions.

Of course, ‘Ólöf Sings’ is not a major release and will mainly be picked up by those already familiar with Arnalds. To them, it will be a satisfying filler before she returns with a collection of songs of her own.

Tags: Olof Arnalds, Reviews, EP Reviews

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