Album Review: “For Now I Am Winter” – Ólafur Arnalds

Stand out track

I was worried about Ólafur for some time; he seemed to be stuck in some limbo where all his work would end up as random youtube videos labelled “beautiful/sad piano music 3 hours“. His previous work before this gem of an album were very samey (his words!); often centered around the Icelandic composers’ piano work and sparse orchestrations. For Now I Am Winter changes everything.

I love a cohesive album, and fuck does “Winter” deliver on that front. Centered around a string motif, …Winter embodies that icy season so well; sparse strings, mournful piano melodies, the angelic vocals of Arnor Dan (by god he hits those high notes with such skin-crawling beauty!), and mature nods to EDM and indie sensibilities. Ólafur manages to strike a balance between indie, ambiance, electronica and classical – perfection!

“Sudden Throw” is such a mournful way to open an album; it plays out like a dirge, but Ólafur says this introduction sets up the whole album thematically. While it’s nothing special, the movement into the second track “Brim” is unexpected. Fast paced, this is unlike anything we have seen from Ólafur before. The title track of the album is a standout; featuring soaring vocals from Arnor Dan (I seriously cannot praise this guys voice enough).

There are filler songs that add to the ambiance, “Words of Amber”, “Hands, Be Still”, “We (Too) shall Rest” can all wash over you before you realize what exactly is happening. But these aren’t the moments where the album shines; indeed, I found those featuring vocalist Arnor were incredible beautiful. “Reclaim” is the most indie-pop on Winter, and a fucking winner of a song. Similarly, “Old Skin” is perhaps the most accessible; if you need to preview this album before committing to a full listen, then I recommend starting with that track!

ConclusionOlafurArnalds_ForNowIAmWinter

If you want to feel the tempest of Winter in auditory form, this is it. You have isolation, sudden danger, beauty in sadness, mournful dirges; seriously its all here. Ólafur has managed to finally stand out among his peers with For Now I AmWinter, by taking a chance and getting out of his comfort zone, he has emerged victorious. If he sticks with Arnor Dan and other unique voices (Bjork is Icelandic too Ólafur!) he could strike up another gem.

5 out of 5 stars!

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