Ólafur Arnalds – Another Happy Day Soundtrack

Born in Mosfellsbær, Iceland, Ólafur Arnalds is a neo-classical, multi-instrumental composer that creates melancholic and emotionally charged music. Arnalds’ songs are like narrative stories that take the listener to the darkest and coldest places on the earth, musically mimicking the terrain of his icy homeland. Imagine if Halldor Laxness’ World Light had a soundtrack that accompanied his novel. This is what Arnalds’ music sounds like. It’s bitter. It’s still. It’s romantic. It’s like wearing a lead vest or a wet bathrobe while holding hands with your girlfriend/boyfriend. It invokes something larger than desire or sadness.  Interesting to note, Laxness once lived in the valley near Arnalds’ hometown. But you don’t need to know that.

Arnalds’ newest release, a film score for Sam Levinson’s Another Happy Day, provides an interesting background for such an anguished and bleak film. Even though there is an inherent melancholy present in each of Arnalds’ tracks, there is also brilliant warmth that permeates the soundtrack. Creating a film score is demanding and anti-climatic, but Arnalds met the artistic demands and created some sharp and biting compositions.

If one approaches this album like a soundtrack—musical moments to mark specific scenes in a film—then the composition might sound flat and forced. On the other hand, if one approaches this soundtrack not as a soundtrack, the album takes on a different meaning, and the listener is treated to something entirely unexpected and rewarding. Much like a grain a sand irritating the inside of a mollusk and transforming into a pearl, Arnalds’ sadness transforms into brief moments of beauty. With all the emotions present in Arnalds’ soundtrack, he never alienates the listener; he allows us to come in from the cold and warm our hands by the quickly dying fire.


March 3, 2012. Albums.

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