Ólafur Arnalds is probably one of the most prolific artists to come out of Iceland in recent years. Since 2007, the 25-year-old has released 6 records and completed 3 film scores. His last project Living Room Songs saw Arnalds record one song a day for a week in October 2011. Far from adhering to my usual mental image of a home-recording project, which features a bloke sitting round in his pants programming drum sounds on Garageband, Arnalds sat (fully clothed) with his very talented friends and family and  managed to create a new piece of heartfelt, delicate music every single day.

His latest offering is the score for Sam Levinson’s Sundance Film Festival award-winning directorial debut Another Happy Day, which despite the chipper-sounding title, seems to be 2 hours of divorce, drug addiction and heartbreak.

 

The story goes that lead actress Ellen Barkin (well-known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Sea of Love and Ocean’s Thirteen) had to pester the producers into letting Arnalds do the score, and her persistence has paid off. The result is a gorgeous, if melancholy, swelling and swirling of piano and strings that never crashes like a wave, but laps slowly but surely closer to you.

 

Film soundtracks tend to fall into two very different categories - albums that consist of brilliant tracks that were synced in the film - see: Lost In Translation, Garden State, and Almost Famous - and then you get releases of the complete original score, like the Thomas Newman score for American Beauty or Wendy Carlos’ A Clockwork Orange post-Bach adaptions. Ólafur Arnalds’ Another Happy Day is firmly the latter - an original, captivating collection of classical music that’s well worth paying attention to.

 

It’s a good sign that it is difficult to talk about the album as individual tracks - each piece feels part of a whole, and as you near the end, it rises to a crescendo that turns a feeling of slowly moving through melancholy into a sudden, sinister squall. There’s something deeply mesmerising about the careful pace and creeping sense of a climax that so many Scandinavian musicians seem to inherently possess. Of course, it’s not his nationality that makes Arnalds so hypnotic, it’s his natural talent for being able to convey a mood and convert it into something the feels timeless, all within the confines of a relatively short piece of music.

 

It’s not going to convince listeners that don’t already appreciate slightly subdued, dramatic electro-classical compositions (‘Who doesn’t!?’ I hear you cry), but for those that do, it’s a reminder that Ólafur Arnalds proves quantity doesn’t always mean a lack of quality.