Winter Saturday Music Interlude — Olafur Arnalds

I first became familiar with the music of Olafur Arnalds during the difficult period of my father’s decline and eventual passing.  It was last November and Arnalds’ songs from the album For Now I Am Winter drifted from the radio.  He is a gifted composer from Mosfellsbaer, Iceland.  He began his musical career as a drummer in hardcore/metal and then moved on to electro-pop.  He now scores ambient, neo-classical, and electronica that mixes in acoustic instruments that ground and humanize the music.  Additional background and a podcast interview can be found here on  His music beckons us in their musical imagery of overcast, twilight days and cold clear nights.  Here is one of my favorites from his Living Room Song series from 2011, where he composed a song a week for an entire week form his living room.  The entire series can be viewed here.  This one is entitled “Near Light.”

Another of my favorites is “This Place Is A Shelter.”

Saturday Music Interlude — Northern Latitude Update — Thus Owls, First Aid Kit, and Olafur Arnalds

The last few months have seen some interesting music come from our friends of the northern latitudes.  Here is some great music inspired by or from the land of long winters and the midnight sun.

The first group is known as Thus Owls.  It is a Canadian-Swedish duo of vocalist Erika Angell and guitarist husband Simon Angell who mines their inspiration from the small village tales from a Swedish island in the album Turning Rocks.

The next group, First Aid Kit, is a Swedish folk duo consisting of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg.  Their latest album, which was released May 19th of this year is known as Upside Down Mountain.  Their influences are American folk-rock and country-rock.

Finally, I meant to write about him earlier but Olafur Arnalds is always an inspiration.  Hailing from Iceland he composes neo-classical instrumental music inspired by minimalist and dream-like ambient and electronic music that effectively evokes emotions and memories of the subject at hand.  In his most recent album, Now I Am Winter, he collaborated with vocalist Arnór Dan of the Icelandic band Agent Fresco to create moody, atmospheric music that captures the essence of a land of snow, fire, and ice.

Saturday Music Interlude — Moby and Cold Specks Performing “A Case for Shame”

A leading exponent of electronic and ambient music, Moby has fused traditional folk and earlier music traditions into his techno vision.  Now with the album Innocents he brings voices, acoustic, and conventional electric instrumentation into the mix as organic elements at the core of his music that grounds and humanizes it.  In the case of the following version of the song “A Case for Shame,” which is significantly different from the album version (which follows below it), Cold Specks’ voice, sounding much like a huskier Norah Jones, is an instrument in itself that glides over the guitar rhythm and sets the tone for the song, which is a dreamlike contemplation on the ephemeral nature of existence.

The more highly produced album version is here:

This is introspective, beautiful music and just the tonic for modern life.


Saturday Music Interlude — Marissa Nadler

Few musicians can create their own atmosphere with repeated and extended listening–it is a talent that is reserved for the truly special and talented. Marissa Nadler is one of those artists.  Well grounded in the folk tradition she extends the music to dark and heavy places to include dream pop and ambient.  Her latest album July is a song cycle about one year in her life from breakup to reunion.  If Judy Collins and Joan Baez had jointly mentored a talent it might have been Marissa Nadler.