Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

RARB REVIEW

Group: Sönghópurinn Sólarmegin
Album: Sólarmegin

Total time: 43:42, 20 songs
Recorded 1996

Ordering Information

For ordering information, contact Sólarmegin by email at lars@aknet.is.


Track Listing

  1. Il bianco (7.6)
  2. Con amores (8.2)
  3. Hætt' að gráta hringaná (6.6)
  4. Tíminn líður (7.4)
  5. Ástarkveðja (7.8)
  6. Við förum burt (7.4)
  7. Sumarnætur (7.8)
  8. Sumar er í sveitum (6.8)
  9. Nú sefur jörðin (7.6)
  10. Sumarnál (8.0)
  11. Haldiðún Gróa hafi (6.4)
  12. Litla Stina (6.8)
  13. Kvöldið er fagurt (7.4)
  14. Áttu þér draum (8.2)
  15. Við tvö (6.2)
  16. After the Goldrush (6.6)
  17. Michelle (7.2)
  18. Ljúflingshóll (6.6)
  19. Sígur að kveldi (6.2)
  20. Haustharmur (7.4)

Reviews

Overall

Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

when one begins listening to this album, it sounds professional. there's all kinds of stuff, renaissance motets, icelandic folk melodies, christian stuff, hoagy charmichael, neil young, and the beatles. they do it all with very nice arrangements and competent vocals, and for the first half of the album or so they had me convinced that they were bad to the bone. but the second half of the album suffers from poorer performances and weaker arrangements, in addition to explorations into styles that might not be best suited to sólarmegin. the album as a whole is, i believe, a little too long, and i'd've appreciated a little editing before having to sit through 20 tracks of this stuff. many of the individual tracks are good, and interesting too, but i've got a limit, as do most listeners. if you're looking for unique stuff, though, this certainly fits the bill.
Rating: 7 (6.3)

Rebecca Christie

Sólarmegin has produced a lovely collection of choral music, made more intriguing by its Icelandic setting. Most of the songs are in this Scandinavian language; for the most part they are short, musically good and somewhat uniform. Some are traditional, and some have been specially translated for the group. Naturally this leaves an American listener a bit out of touch, but I found this disc quite pleasing.

With five male singers and five women, Sólarmegin has a full, well-rehearsed sound. Although I listen to choral music, I haven't had to articulate anything about it in quite a while, and I often found myself grasping for words to explain what I was hearing, so bear with me. One constant thing I heard was what almost seemed to be a burr among the sopranos, although the two of them blended perfectly. I wonder if it isn't some sort of Scandinavian style thing, of sort of pushing on the higher notes (nothing really high) — I got the feeling it was not unintentional, even if to me it seemed harsh. The sopranos carry the melody in the majority of the pieces, so they have a lot of power to push the blend off, and in a group like this it really interferes with my perception of the tuning. At the very top of their range they seem to have trouble consistently — I wonder if it's not from trying so hard to have a pure tone and clamping down on their voices.

I should like to congratulate the group on their interpretive taste when it comes to arranging foreign songs. There were a number of combinations that looked quite dicey — Neal Young in an accented, sopranoey choral setting? — but actually they all worked very well. In many cases I enjoyed the innovations more than the straight up Icelandic choral numbers, which kind of blended together. One particular favorite of mine was Áttu þér draum, a Japanese lullaby translated into Icelandic; really lovely. I also liked Sumarnætur, one of two accompanied songs, which had a lovely background of viola, flute, guitar and bass along with it.


Rating: 8 (7.8)

Benjamin Stevens

Sólarmegin is a mixed classical and folk choir hailing from (how the world does shrink) Iceland. Many of the songs on this album are performed in their (presumably) native tongue, lending an exotic flair, at least to my ear, inexperienced with that family of languages. Two songs are in English, and two are in Italian. I'm uncertain what the criteria were for translating into Icelandic or leaving in the original . . . it seems somewhat random, and not all of the singers are prepared for the transitions: diction and stress are sometimes troublesome, especially in the English pieces.

Beyond that, however, there is very little working against the group throughout these twenty tunes. The group presents an impeccable blend of their voices (with the exception of a soprano or two who continuously stand out), and a good sense of dynamic. Each member's classical training shines through, and combines for a pleasing and perfected whole. If anything, unfortunately, the group is too restrained, too classical, and thus a little too tame for my taste. Very little variation in style of song contributes to this overall blandness. All in all, an enjoyable album, but not for all twenty songs at once.
Rating: 8 (6.8)

Ben Tritle

Well...I was just sitting around, thinking "You know, I have this huge craving for Icelandic folksongs, but where on earth will I ever find a CD to tame this hunger?" No sooner had I thought that when in pops this collection of mostly Icelandic folksongs by the mixed 10-person group named Sólarmegin.

The first thing that scores points: LINER NOTES!! Not only song lyrics, but also a history of the group in both Icelandic and English. That in itself earns a point.

There are two tracks that involve instrumental accompaniment, but it doesn't detract from what appears to be their strong suit: four part harmony (and in some cases, five part harmony). With less-than-occasional tuning problems, this group is typically "on". What I found most frustrating about this CD is a seemingly lack of leeway taken by the group to move the song. When the arrangements called for it, the songs were great; on the slower tracks though, they didn't take advantage of any kind of personal color. However, in reality, that doesn't mean they were bad songs, either. Overall, putting aside two big differences from the traditional RARB-reviewed CD, namely that it's choral and in Icelandic, it really is a pleasant CD. It's not a CD that you're going to wear out, however you won't be disappointed if you find it in your collection and decide to play it on a whim.
Rating: 7 (6.3)

John Magruder

This album by the professional Icelandic group Sólarmegin is a wonderful album to listen to — a joy all around. It did not matter that I did not understand most of the lyrics. Just like a great Italian opera when I don't have the translation book, I did not care. The music and the voices carried me away. 16 of the songs are sung in Icelandic, the other 4 are in the original languages: 2 in English, 2 in Italian.

This group has been around for a few years, and you can tell they work hard. They have a tight, well balanced, effortless sound that is well suited to the chamber music they sing. But it is not all chamber music. There is a Beatles song and a Neil Young tune as well! All beautifully sung.

The album was recorded well, and sounds like they were in a nice chamber space, like a little church or hall. I found the album to be great for background music, especially since I could only understand 2 of the songs and their lyrics. There is a good variety of slow and perky, bouncy songs. There are old Icelandic folk-songs, as well as patriotic songs and stage numbers (or so the liner notes tell me!). All of the songs are short, though, so 20 songs does not feel like 20 songs.

It made for good atmospheric music, especially around the holiday season. It just seemed to fit really well as holiday music as you sat at the dinner table with the family. If you are looking for something a little different to add to your collection, you should get this album. I am just not going to have much to say about the songs on this album. They are all spot on. I liked everything. Was there something I was supposed to complain about?
Rating: 9 (8.8)


Individual Tracks

  1. Il Bianco (7.6)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    let me begin by saying that i have NO IDEA what any of these tunes are about, save for the 2 that are in english. this first tune i actually recognize! it's a renaissance motet by italian composer jacques arcadelt, deftly and compassionately performed by sólarmegin's more than able group of singers. produced with the requisite amount of hall reverb, and sung without a hint of pitch problems or the like. this is what a cappella sounded like in the 1500's, and sólarmegin can rock that century as far as i'm concerned. very very pretty.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    A Renaissance Italian piece is, in my mind, a perfectly lovely way to start a CD of choral music. No surprises in this number, and not as smooth as some of their others, but a beautiful song. The sopranos, which carry the melody, seem a bit raspy though.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    A slow, Italian madrigal, this song opens with a wonderful, effervescent cascade of the higher voices. The group starts off very strong with this piece, giving every indication of their skill. There is a noticeable soprano standout throughout, detracting somewhat from the blend.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    A 16th Century Italian piece that starts the CD off well. This definitely sets the pace for their efficient harmonizing. If anything, I was surprised by their pronunciation, as good as it was, though I probably shouldn't have been. Sopranos carry the melody beautifully.
    Rating: 7

    John Magruder

    A beautiful, delicate, and soaring Italian piece. This makes a great opener.
    Rating: 9

  2. Con Amores (8.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    more renaissance stuff, i believe. begins with a soothing soprano line, and they lead the group through another beautiful motet rendition. all parts are on top of the parts, and once again, i have little to say but to comment on the pleasure this music brings me. don't have to worry about the pitch, 'cause i know it won't falter, don't have to worry about the rhythm, 'cause it's tight, don't have to worry about the percussion 'cause there ain't any, just clean, crisp, beautiful old harmonies sung very well by people who obviously are loving it as much as i.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    This plainchant-inspired piece opens with a beautiful, piercingly clear soprano solo, joined by a growing cascade of voices in a very simple, Renaissance-like harmonic framework. Even when the whole group comes in, the song still has a very simple, elegant flair to it. Near as I can tell from the Italian lyrics, it's a fairly secular lullaby — though I suppose "mia madre" could be Mary — which means it is fairly unusual for this style, which I associate almost exclusively with sacred music. Liner notes seem to indicate it was arranged by a Bob Chilcot, who could well be the one of King's Singers fame.
    Rating: 9

    Benjamin Stevens

    A sweet and clear soprano solo opens this piece, followed by a fine blend and strength in the backing parts. The chords are just lovely. A very tender rendition of this slow ballad by all involved.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Another Italian piece, and again one that they execute beautifully. Two things struck me about this, first the soloist had my attention from the start; second, the basses are not in until halfway through. A piece built part by part that highlights each part without ruining the blend by shifting the color with more voices.
    Rating: 8

    John Magruder

    Another Italian song that I believe is a sacred piece. Needless to say, it sounds wonderful, sung with tenderness and talent.
    Rating: 9

  3. Hætt' að gráta hringaná (6.6)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    more modern harmonies on this icelandic tune. (with this we embark on an icelandic tour; the next 13 songs are in icelandic.) i think another thing that seems to be making this album succeed is the fact that the tunes are not interminably long. once you feel like you've heard the full extent of the tune, it's over. this is certainly the case with this one. very very slight pitch problems, and an occasional staggered entrance, but otherwise this is just a pretty icelandic melody arranged mostly homophonically.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Opens with a lackluster section of oohs and bums — once the words come in, the song picks up and gets much better; I'm not sure why they kept the intro. The song ends with all but the altos going back to the oohs, with mixed results.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    Again punctuated by a strong soprano, this song's highlights are its fine backing voices, at first delightfully mimicking bells and then switching to a syncopated echo of the primary lyrics. There is a nice jazzy feel to most of the chords, with wonderfully tense suspensions dissolving into delightful resolution. Nice.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    The first of many short Icelandic pieces throughout the CD. This is the only song that I was uncomfortable with. Even though the background supports the melody nicely at the end, the main problem is possible tuning problems within parts that made it difficult for me to like the song. Also, the arrangement is fairly repetitive.
    Rating: 4

    John Magruder

    A short little song (1:30). Actually, there is nothing odd about that. Most of the songs rarely get past 2 minutes. It was slow and melodic, with a little bounce too. Nice.
    Rating: 8

  4. Tíminn líður (7.4)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this seems to have much of the flavor of celtic stuff, with sustained notes in a part over a moving line above (like bagpipes), which i suppose (?) has some relation to icelandic music... i actually have NO IDEA. anyway, short and bouncy, this actually ends rather messily, with a big crescendo that messes up the women's pitch.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    This reminds me of the folk songs of Kodaly. The women have an even straighter tone than usual, giving them a youthful sound, and the song runs along like a child on an errand.
    Rating: 9

    Benjamin Stevens

    A folk-tune faster than the previous three, this piece shares with 3 the strange suspensions, which achieve here a slightly disquieting feel. If only translations of the Icelandic had been given, as the meaning of the song could then be seen perhaps to mesh with its diminished atmosphere.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    A patriotic-type folk song that was fun. An arrangement with originality, definitely not a traditional Western song. Look past the dissonance and you get a nice piece of cultural folk song heritage.
    Rating: 8

    John Magruder

    By far the most interesting song on the album. A fast paced song that had some odd chords (but right on, nonetheless). What I thought was odd in the beginning seemed perfectly normal when I heard the ending chord, though! At first, I thought that it was just a horrible, clashing, out of tune chord that was forgotten about in the studio. But upon further listening, it was really meant to be that way! Beats me! Some composers go for that goofy stuff, I guess. I played that ending for my fiancee and she screamed. I am sure they did it just how it was written. I just did not like it as much as the others. The only song to rub me the wrong way, and it meant to do that!
    Rating: 7

  5. Ástarkveðja (7.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    for what seems like the first time since the motets of tracks 1 & 2 we get some stuff that's not strictly homophonic here. (little "la la la la"s sprinkled in a bridge.) there's an unusually bad bass entrance when they take over the bridge melody, sounds off pitch and abrasive. after this the group comes back together, though, and finishes strongly.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Beautiful slow choral number. Sort of what you expect from European choral music, which makes sense because it's apparently a translation of a French song, Plaisir d'Amour. The bass section sounds quite nice here, but unfortunately the one they send out to do the solo is a weak link in this song's presentation.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    A very rich blend, especially among the lower voices, characterizes this song. Highly emotive and touching, well-sung by everybody. Fans of the King's Singers will recognize the tune, and will not be displeased by this larger rendition.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    The men open this song floating on air; the women join them and keep the light spirit. Another advantage: it's placement after Tíminn líður. A thoroughly melodic song, almost lullaby like. One of the few times I was glad I didn't have a translation, because I just appreciated the incredible blend and feel of the piece.
    Rating: 9

    John Magruder

    The men have a beautiful sound as they start this song: rich, and full of promise. The women get a tad shrill initially, but it is a minor point. A lovely song.
    Rating: 8

  6. Við förum burt (7.4)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    back to homophony, more pretty pretty music. these guys know how to do the pretty thing, that's for dang sure. a couple troublesome high notes for the sopranos, but otherwise just beautiful. tight. pretty. ooh baby.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    This song reminds me of Russian music, but with a distinctly Scandinavian feel to it. The sopranos ring out over the other parts, and they have a very interesting timbre to them. It's a bit broader than some of the other numbers, the music has more depth to it, if that makes sense. The sopranos miss their highest notes here — it can't be higher than an F, I wonder why they can't nail it better?
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    Characterized by a slow, dirge-like sound. Wonderful transitions from key to key lend a little spice to this piece. A very atmospheric, brooding selection, well-performed. Still, a soprano stands out against the rest by virtue of the quality of her voice: certainly not bad, but markedly different than the others.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    Another song where I wonder if the women are out of tune with themselves or is it the echo effect between my stereo and the CD? The arrangement seemed redundant; the group executes it nicely, but without any significant acrobatics to make it memorable.
    Rating: 5

    John Magruder

    Very nice. This song has a swelling, moving feel to it that makes you really listen up. Very nice harmonies.
    Rating: 9

  7. Sumarnætur (7.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    viola? at the start... then flute, recorder, bass, guitar, then the vocals enter. this ain't no a cappella music, but it is very nice. sounds like icelandic folk music or something. moves along nicely, passes the lead through multiple parts. sweet.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    A beautiful solo fiddle (well, a viola playing a folk melody) opens this number, joined by a flute and then other instruments. As a cappella it's not much; as elegant, beautiful choral music it's got quite a bit going for it. The tune could be English, it reminds me of the sort of settings often given to Robert Frost poems. The singing is excellent, the accompaniment very subtle except for that gorgeous viola. My favorite song on the album, or close to it, for all that it's not a cappella.
    Rating: 9

    Benjamin Stevens

    This piece is accompanied, and the singers work as well with the instruments as they do without; a very easy partnership is apparent throughout. One wishes for lower work by the basses themselves, hearing how the double-bass herein fleshes out the sound.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    The first of two accompanied pieces, this one with viola, two flutes, guitar, and bass. The instrumental gave a picture of how I would imagine Icelandic countryside. Again, a great execution, but most of the feeling and spirit seem carried by the instrumentation. Still, though it's another representation of their vocal blend.
    Rating: 7

    John Magruder

    A song accompanied by viola (maybe violin), flute and guitar. Beautiful. One of my favorites on the album, this folk-song sends me to wonderful places. I loved this song.
    Rating: 10

  8. Sumar er í sveitum (6.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    back to more pretty homophony. this is traditional sounding, like church stuff i guess. sweet, traditional harmonies, you know, the kind that's written to never sound bad no matter who's performing. sólarmegin does it very well, but this does seem like just another track...
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    This one doesn't seem to go very far. It's pretty nice, chapel-sounding choral music; a lyric 3/4. Very pleasant, what else can you say. The women seem a little uncomfortable on their highest note — again, it's not very high, I wonder what it is about the way they sing that makes them top out so low. Maybe it's repressing the vibrato.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    A slow, rhyming piece, with a nice feel to it. Again, however, it is slightly marred by the group's lack of energy, lack of spark. Classical and folk training is one thing, but life must somehow be breathed into the music.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    A short piece sung through twice. The group follows the rhythm melody, which moves the song along, but again, no attempt is made to differentiate the second time through from the first, which leaves it average instead of great.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    I like it. Light, tasty harmonies that lilt about like a feather in the wind. (listen to me, waxing poetic or something! this music does it to me...)
    Rating: 9

  9. Nú sefur jörðin (7.6)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    subtle pitch problems at the top of this one. slow homophony again, this one seems to have a little more character than 8. once again, very pretty. i don't understand it. you know, it's in icelandic.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    I like this very much. It has a rather baroque feel to it, warm and welcoming in a soothing waltz rhythm. The verses repeat the melody and supporting harmonic structure — it's got the same lovely feel as the best Christmas carols, if that makes any sense. Maybe not too ground-breaking, but quite wonderful to listen to.
    Rating: 9

    Benjamin Stevens

    In the same vein as 8, but with a relaxing, almost lullaby-type feel. A very gentle piece, again marked by a soprano standout (not a soloist, I think). Very listenable.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Again a short song. Unfortunately, I was getting a deja vu feeling: dynamics were average, blend was great. It's almost like they are worried about upsetting their balance by taking any stylistic chances. Granted that's difficult when you're in a choral group, but it doesn't help an individual track any.
    Rating: 5

    John Magruder

    This is a slow song that, as usual sounds very nice. Great dynamics... great blend.
    Rating: 9

  10. Sumarnál (8.0)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    more movement, this kinda comes alive after the last couple brooders. more traditional arranging, baroque sounding to me. well, maybe not that late... whatever. it's pretty, i don't understand it, but it's pretty, and well, that's all right.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    This is also very melody-driven, with sopranos carrying a brisk, boy-choiry melody over the lower voices. The rest of the parts are carrying sort of an answering, back-up cadence. I confess by this point in the CD, I am hoping for something a little different — where the melody hands off perhaps, or is somewhere other than the high voices. It doesn't seem as smooth as some of the other numbers, and when the blend is off the tuning doesn't hang right.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    Faster, with delightful contrasting activity in all of the voices. Wonderful sections approaching rounds in their complexity alternate very nicely with more traditionally "choral" sections. A very strong, enjoyable piece.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    Just when I was getting bored, a lively little song that moves beautifully with the vocal lead in the sopranos and a great counter melody from the men. The arrangement overcomes the lack of great dynamic differentiation. A foot tapper that was just plain fun.
    Rating: 9

    John Magruder

    Here is a perky song that bounces through your ears and gets your head bobbing and your toes tapping. Good dynamics again. Too bad it is over so soon!
    Rating: 9

  11. Haldiðún Gróa hafi (6.4)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this starts out like the last couple, slow and pretty, but speeds up soon thereafter and begins to show pitch problems. this arrangement is not terribly interesting, and is certainly not beautiful. not sure of the point, it's only about 30 seconds long... could easily have been left off the disc.
    Rating: 4

    Rebecca Christie

    Periodic unison and a little bit of dissonance carry this song, giving it a contemporary take. Nicely presented, and with more of an edge to it than much of its surroundings. I like the edge — it works, it comes from the group as a whole instead of just the sopranos, and helps differentiate it.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    I feel at a loss to comment about this song. It doesn't seem to stand out in any way, but is of course aided by the group's consistent, fantastic blend.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    Again a short song that loses points for its placement, mainly because it brought me so far down from the liveliness of the previous track with the plodding tempo. A lot of unison singing with occasional harmony. The first signs of group style show in this song only at the very end.
    Rating: 5

    John Magruder

    A dramatic sounding piece. They move effortlessly from singing earnestly and seriously, to lilting, and then back to serious in a heartbeat. I love the quick ending. I just don't like the fact that this song is the shortest on the album (1:12).
    Rating: 9

  12. Litla Stina (6.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    when sólarmegin sings more modern material, it sounds like wartime folk songs to me, and isn't terribly interesting in terms of harmony or arranging. i mean, i suppose it's a nice enough tune, but doesn't really accomplish much in the way of furthering music as we know it.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Very traditional folk song. Cute, nothing too remarkable. I sort of imagine school kids doing a little ballet step to this.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    Straightforward parts without much syncopation. A light-hearted feel persists throughout the song (again, I would wish for a knowledge of Icelandic). Well-sung.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Pleasant song with nice execution, but I never got any sense of feeling conveyed. It seemed very mechanical.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    This is a nice little waltzing song. It just ends when you don't expect it. You are dancing, and then it is over. Sigh...
    Rating: 9

  13. Kvöldið er fagurt (7.4)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    cool arrangement, here, lots of imitation, rondo style stuff, almost renaissance again, ends on a flourish but with not such great pitch. kinda fun.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    This seems like a choral setting of a traditional folk song. I like it for its variety — the altos have melody, the different parts compete for attention and then come back together. Rousing, and a nice change from the faceless choral numbers.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    One of my favorites. A fast, dance-like tune pervades this piece. Instrumental sounds emerge from all the parts very nicely. I almost get the sense that the men and the women are urging men and women in the imagined audience to perform different parts of a dance. Very evocative, in that sense.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    Again a song with originality in its arrangement that plays a women v. men. After a while, the jumping between the different parts got annoying, but it's distinctiveness on the CD makes it worth listening.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    A quick and dramatic song singing about something in earnest. Another great ending to a song that is too short! (1:19) I want more!
    Rating: 9

  14. Áttu þér draum (8.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    very very pretty, sounds like a love song of sorts, really nice harmonies, and a pretty baritone solo. certainly has a few pitch problems, but certainly they are few and far between. overall this is another beautiful track, reminiscent of some of the earlier selections on the disc. occasional high notes miss and ring slightly harshly, but it ain't so bad.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Silky smooth and blended in a way many of the songs don't quite manage. In some ways a faceless slow choral number in itself, but performed at a higher level than elsewhere. The sopranos seem better in tune, better connected to everything else going on. The women blend beautifully on some very haunting ahs, and the baritone solo is quite charming, in one of the few breaks from ensemble sound. Very nice — my favorite a cappella cut.

    After you've enjoyed it a couple of times, go study your liner notes. They seem to indicate that this is a Japanese lullaby translated into Icelandic. That might explain why the women are so uncharacteristically rounded, but does send me into a bit of cultural confusion.
    Rating: 9

    Benjamin Stevens

    From a Japanese folk song, and therefore marked by "oriental" scales. Still, the group's strong western classicalism dominates, and the "provincialism" of the tune is lost beneath that crushing weight. A smooth, dark baritone soloist does a solid if largely uninteresting job.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    From what I can tell it's an Icelandic translation of a Japanese lullaby. I liked the Western background to the Japanese melody. There was a lilting feel in the soprano melody that was slightly overpowered by the baritone solo. Another case of appreciation for lack of English translation. The feeling was carried through nicely. Close your eyes and drift to pleasant dreams with this track.
    Rating: 8

    John Magruder

    This song is one of the longest, but only 3:04. A nice piece that ebbs and flows as though the group is telling some story. Have I said how much I like these voices? I like these voices. This I think is a Japanese song they translated into Icelandic, known as the Takeda Lullaby. It is a beautiful lullaby, no question. Who cares what language it is in?
    Rating: 10

  15. Við tvö (6.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    weird production makes the men on this track sound phasey, flangey, roomy, totally stickin' out. this is jazz. hoagy charmichael. translated into icelandic. crazy. whatever. it's ok, but we've all certainly heard better jazz. what we haven't heard is better jazz in icelandic, so here it is.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Hoagy Carmichael in Icelandic. Whoa. For those of you who can't immediately identify "Two Sleepy People," — well, it's got that same timeless American feel to it that you find in Gershwin, or Rogers and Hammerstein. Very recognizable, if not necessarily distinctive.

    The music has a simple charm to it that comes through just fine in the foreign language. It also makes the translation to choral very well, which cannot be said for all of this style of music.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    A jazz ballad ("Two Sleepy People"), done well but (arg!) frustratingly marked by the group's restraint! I wish for them to wake up and sing more from the heart than from the head.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    OK, it's not my stereo, something's up with their studio (or wherever they recorded) because I cannot get past the echo that throws off their normally brilliant tuning and harmony. The arrangement is lacking as well. Just did not capture my attention without me trying hard.
    Rating: 3

    John Magruder

    This song sounds like it is some kind of show tune, and I think the liner notes are telling me that as well. "Two Sleepy People" is what is written here. I love the male soloist in this song. He has a great, effortless, dancing voice as he tells his story.
    Rating: 9

  16. After the Goldrush (6.6)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    english! neil young! insanity. these icelanders definitely have accents when they try to sing in english. not that this necessarily makes them sound bad, but, well, it's just kinda weird. something about hearing a bunch of icelandic people singing "there was a band playing in my head and i felt like getting high" in a kind of dirgey style, slow and pretty, makes me feel kinda funny inside, i gotta tell ya... slightly pitchy on this track as well.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    This is just trippy. I think it needs to be heard through European ears to understand how they felt it. To my American mind, born and raised on classic rock, hearing Neal Young with an accent, rolled r's and delivered in a choral setting is a cross-cultural experience to say the least. It's kinda pretty, actually, but it leaves me a bit unsettled.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    I am not familiar with the original of this, so I can't comment on this as cover. The lyrics are very strange, and made stranger by odd features of the lead's Icelandic-colored English: stress, mostly, suffers. A nice shimmery feel is achieved in the higher voices. More bass in the background would have made the verses real stand-outs.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    An arrangement of the Neil Young classic that I've never heard. I like the arrangement for the most part, but it seemed empty with the sopranos alone. It also seemed like they weren't entirely sure of what they were singing in English. Appreciate it for the harmony; if you listen to the lyrics, it will only seem less than average.
    Rating: 5

    John Magruder

    The Neil Young song. I had never heard this song before, and I don't think I want to hear the original. I like this one a lot. They sing this in English, so you can really hear their accents. Which to me sounds a bit funny as the women sing the words" ... and I felt like getting high". Beautiful harmonies that really carry a feeling.
    Rating: 8

  17. Michelle (7.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    the beatles. certainly creative arranging, this and the last track take the songs to a totally new place. i definitely like this one better, though, maybe because the harmonies are interesting enough to warrant this new treatment. (also, this arrangement fits with the rest of the album, it's not just an english song for the sake of doing one.) old school flowing ahs just rule in this one. also, the accents somehow add to this new version, it's definitely cool. lovin' it. but still kinda pitchy.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Deconstructing this can get a bit bewildering. It's a Beatles song, done by an Icelandic group, in sort of a contemporary classical arrangement. Opens with a wordless male line, the other parts come in, and the lyrics shift around while the other parts do a mostly very classical background that occasionally flirts with jazz. The first minute is a little shaky, but then they settle into what they're doing, and to my surprise it works. Hats off for landing a decent interpretation.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    Some mild uncertainty in the baritone lead-in (mostly due to his odd patterns of intonation) is resolved as the song progresses. A very tender rendering. When the female voices take the lead for a moment, a strange, pinched tone prevails. Not too great, but certainly not bad.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    Ah, yes, the Beatles translate well in any country. From the opening tenor intro throughout, I was captivated. Occasional pronunciation difficulties did not hurt what was a heartfelt rendition of the classic.
    Rating: 8

    John Magruder

    Here is the Beatles song. I like it, though I did not recognize it until they started singing words. It is beautiful, but seems a bit empty at a couple of instances, but they go away quickly to be replaced by a rich, choral sound.
    Rating: 8

  18. Ljúflingshóll (6.6)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    nice and light. unoffensive. unobtrusive. but not terribly interesting.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Back to Icelandic, now that we Anglos have had our token turn into the filter. This is a nice little jazz number — a little fuzzier than, say, the Real Group, but they are a choir so I guess we shouldn't expect crystalline blend.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    A mild call and response becomes more classically choral. Sort of uninteresting.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    This almost had a Disney feel to it, if Mickey sang in Reykjavík. It's a pretty song that doesn't excite to any degree, mainly because after Michelle it just doesn't stir the blood. Nothing wrong with the track, but nothing outstanding. Just nice.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    I don't know what to make of this song, really. I think it is a mellow, jazz show tune, but I would be guessing. It sounds good though. Tight, simple jazz harmonies in a tidy little package (1:43).
    Rating: 8

  19. Sígur að kveldi (6.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    more of the same. pretty music, just kinda runs on autopilot. there're SO MANY TRACKS on this album. couldn't they have distilled the greatest hits? i mean it's good, we know, just leave it at that! enough already. we like it, but we don't wanna listen to it for nine years just to get through the album.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    A very nice folk song. The sopranos seem to be pushing it on the higher notes, which really aren't that high, but otherwise this blends well. The baritones take a spot at the melody, quite refreshing, and it has the calm, melodic lilt of traditional European melodies.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    I have almost nothing to say about this which I haven't said about other songs: wonderful blend, almost no life.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    It didn't help that this song had an assembly line feel to it. Again, there was nothing truly wrong with it, but I was just bored by it at this point. If I had put my CD player on random, things may have been different.
    Rating: 4

    John Magruder

    This is a nice little song. Once again, good harmonies, nice dynamics. If you have not picked up on this yet, this group is tight. You really have to not like this album to this point to not like this song as well.
    Rating: 8

  20. Haustharmur (7.4)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    bass solo at the beginning? nice. piano? nice. this is a more modern sounding tune, like within the last couple decades. almost sounds a little westerney, like the songs of the old western plains. pitchy, though, in many places. a pretty melody, all the parts sound great except for the occasional pitchiness in the higher parts, and a sweet ending to the disc.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    This is the sort of thing American high school choirs and community choruses seem to reek of. It's got a rolling piano accompaniment, some "doo" sections, and breaks in and out of a cappella. Tuning is excellent, which you can really tell because the piano drops in and out. The doos are pretty, and the opening baritone solo is a nice change of pace, but he does seem a little heavy handed, as a hint of frog-voice creeps in. Generally a very pleasant number. Not my thing, but well done and you gotta give them credit for that.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    Again showing a preference for the King's Singers, this is the Eriskay Love Lilt performed by that group. It is accompanied by piano. The soloist seemingly has a tough time, coming across as very stuffy, almost as if the tempo is too fast for him.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    The last track and the 2nd one with accompaniment, here it's a piano. It opens though with a nice baritone solo. What makes this song for me is the seamlessness that the piano cuts out and the voices pick up on the background. Nearly fooled me, it was so good. If it weren't for the distinguishable Icelandic lyrics, I'd say this had an Enya-feel to it. In the end, a pleasant finish to a CD I probably would never have heard without being involved with RARB.
    Rating: 7

    John Magruder

    The closing song of the album, accompanied by piano. Gorgeous. Light, soaring female harmonies accent this lovely song. A beautiful balance and a beautiful sound.
    Rating: 10

How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×