Iceland, isolated in the North Atlantic with a population that hovers barely around the 320,000 mark, manages to produce a series of talented musicians. Perhaps there’s something in that icy Atlantic wind. Ólöf Arnalds arrived on the scene in 2007 with her debut, the warmly received Við Og Við. Classically trained in the Iceland Academy of the Arts, Arnalds also toured as a live performer with folk favorites Múm.
Innundir Skinni is Arnalds’ second release and is produced by Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Ros. Honestly, there are rarely surprises when it comes to Icelandic folk; one knows what to expect, more or less. The real question is as to whether it’s getting tiresome or if it’s any good. Arnald’s voice is charming and warm. Although it is probably the foremost attraction of her work it never distracts from the other instrumentation, which has been produced rather beautifully by Sveinsson, the song Madrid particularly highlights both. Cameos from the likes of Björk and Skúli Sverrisson (Blonde Redhead, Laurie Anderson) complements Arnalds’ work while also adding to this Icelandic dominance of this fairy-esque folk.
Innundir Skinni is yet another album that further advances Iceland’s position on the musical map. Yes, perhaps we may not see a wave of groundbreaking country music artists emerging from Reykjavik, or a swarm of hair metal acts. But when it comes to electronic-tinged folk, Iceland is surely the market leader. Arnalds simply reminds us.