Hafdis Huld: Synchronised Swimmers
I think it’s safe to say that when anyone thinks of female vocalists from Iceland the image of Bjork pops into their heads. I know it’s a rather small island but surely she’s not the only female vocalist from there. That’s where Hafdis Huld comes in. Her debut album, 2006’s Dirty Paper Cup, won her the Icelandic Music Award for Best Pop Album in 2007. Last year she released her follow up album Synchronised Swimmers.
The album displays Hafdis’s pleasant voice throughout. She carries herself well, though perhaps she could use some more oomph. The songs on Synchronised Swimmers could well be described as folksy pop: light and delicate guitar strumming, soft drumming, and piano play that doesn’t come close to breaking the strings. This leaves much room at the forefront of the songs.
Huld’s voice takes center stage, but with quiet music in the background, she doesn’t raise her voice past a quieted speaking level. At times she seems to be whispering the lyrics and that’s fine, but you can hear that she has the ability to really come out with some scorching notes. She’s more or less the anti-Adele in that facet. It left me curious to hear what she could really do.
Lyrically, the album is a bit of a mix. Hafdis does well to produce interesting narratives, similar to Cake. Opening track, “Action Man” is an interesting little tale of a crush on a man who is seen only through a window. Without adding any personal details about the man, the song is written in a daydream like fashion about this stranger only known as “Action Man.” He is out about his daily business though from Huld’s point-of-view he is out to save some damsel in distress.
“Oldest Friend” plays out as a person trying to deal with a troubled or ill friend. Huld sings, “Not sure what I’m doing here/but you’re my oldest friend/Things were so much easier in school/This grown up world is tricky/I’m holding out my hand/It’s unwritten/but it’s the rule.” She develops a little world that sucks you in and puts you there in this awkward situation where as adults we have to fight the urge to just accept that we’ve grown apart and try to help someone else keep things together.
Unfortunately, these entertaining, adult-focused songs do get lost amongst other songs that sound almost like they were written for a children’s album. “Kongulo”, which means spider, is a song about the “human spider” Alain Robert who climbs buildings with no safety devices. It seems like an unusual subject for a song but the way Hafdis sings it, I feel like it was written so much about him as a person, but a character. The music gives it this kid’s sing along feel as well.
Again with “Robot Robot”, the whole thing comes off very childish. She sings, “I’m gonna build a robot and I’ll name it after you/I’ve got everything I need using nuts and bolts and just a little bit of glue and some tin foil on his feet.” On it’s own, it’s alright but when these songs are interspersed among the
more adult driven narrative songs, the album feels off kilter.
In the end, Synchronised Swimmers is a good album. It’s teeter-totter feel with the folksy pop songs makes it a little hard to figure out what Hafdis is going for. Still, she sings well, and I think the world is used to Icelandic singers perhaps coming off sounding a little odd. It would be nice to hear her belt out one or two tracks, or hit some kind of crescendo at least for a moment in a song. Hafdis comes off a bit shy and reserved on the album, but that may be the type of music she likes to make.
MP3: Hafdis Huld “Oldest Friend”
Buy: Synchronised Swimmers – Hafdis Huld
Hafdis Huld: Synchronised Swimmers