Ólafur Arnalds: For Now I Am Winter

Ólafur Arnalds walks his own path, one dreamy song after another.

Ólafur Arnalds

For Now I Am Winter

Label: Mercury Classics
US Release Date: 2013-04-02
UK Release Date: 2013-03-04

First, become afflicted. Unclench your well-lined fists, open the door in the brick wall that surrounds your heart. Let the sadness of modern life wash over you like a waterfall, like a cold shower, like a breakup, a breakdown, a breakthrough. It takes a lot of control to keep it together in these times, and a lot of self-discipline to keep that control together. Just let it go; not all the way, because that way madness lies; just for a few minutes.

Secondly, put on your best walking boots and go outside. The air is still a little chilly up here, especially in the mornings, although it's probably better wherever you are, but it's full of spring, of renewal, even hope: Easter, Passover, Spring Break, Opening Day. Let the sun hit you in the eyes so you have to squint; let the soft rain moisten your hair; see the rabbits and the sanitation workers do their early-morning jobs. Shops are opening, school buses are warming up, but the machine is not fully operational yet.

Thirdly, allow yourself to truly feel this record. Don't worry about what kind of music Ólafur Arnalds makes. It's pop, but it's not; it's classical, but it's also electronic; it's jazz and it's rock and it's ambient and it's none of these things and all of them. Categories melt, boundaries are clearly meaningless. In the right light, that will be okay.

Don't keep looking down at your technological device to see what the song titles might be. They don't really matter. Most are instrumentals, but a few this time around have vocals by Arnór Dan Arnársson of Agent Fresco. Some of them you will understand, and others are in Icelandic I guess, and others are just wordless sighs, keenings, croonings, and the softest of howls. You'll never get as far as saying "Oh this is my favorite song" – they're all part of the same thought, just expressed in slightly different colors.

Some titles provide snapshots of the overall mood, however. "Only the Winds" is Third Stream quietness, led by a melancholy cello line and driven by both a simplistic piano line and echoey 1980s Linn drum slaps. "This Place Was a Shelter" is darker, filled with crashing phased percussion lines; it seems to be a gritty reboot of the lush "This Place Is a Shelter" from Living Room Songs, but maybe not.

"A Stutter" is a standout, with its melting string quartet buttressed by alien landing-craft synthesizer noises. The emotional title song makes wonderful use of its newfound vocal color – when the chorus comes in, you might find any remaining ice breaking and melting in your heart.

If you need something else, a blaster or a groover or something boisterously messy, I will not blame you one bit. That, after all, is as valid a gateway into heaven as anything else. But when the booms and the blasts have died down, and you need to get lost – as we all do – in your own house of mirrors, you will know where to turn.






12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.