Many of you won’t have come across Radio Iceland yet, but we heartily recommend them at Nordic Music Review, they’re a new English speaking radio station in Iceland which pretty much plays exclusively Icelandic music, and has some interesting local interviews (again in English) which will help you get to know the island and the culture slightly better. Anyway it was through them that i came across Red Barnett, the project of Halli Sveinbjörnsson, Reykjavik based singer/songwriter, and his debut album ‘Shine’.
Sveinbjörnsson is a 4 times Icelandic Music Awards nominee, who’s spent most of his working life writing arrangements and compositions for other artists – he studied classical composition in Sweden. But in his own time over the last 10 years he’s been slowly working on a series of his own songs, which he’s now been able to record and arrange through a ‘pledge’ funding scheme, , which only started at the end of February and quickly reached the funding goal – a demonstration of the high regard that he’s held back at home.
Red Barnetts album is simple enough sounding, a series of 11 songs which are heartfelt, fairly melancholy and pretty much rely on guitar, piano and occasional string arrangements. It opens with the big acoustic guitar sound of ‘Every second counts’, not the strongest song on the album by any means, but it just has this lovely sound to it. And by the time ‘My Island’ has opened with a strumming guitar and a cello, we know we’re in for a treat musically.
But the album slightly shifts emphasis with ‘Home’, the sound is even sadder, even if it never feels desolate and unlistenable. And this continues with my own favourite ‘A Song for the Missing, again the concept is simple enough, it’s a ballad, stripped back and reliant on the beautiful melody and piano, with strings introduced at the end and its excuistitely delivered. ‘Life Support’ is another real highlight, it has a bigger sound to it, I’m reminded of the song writing of Icelandic contemporary Biggi Hillmars in his Ampop days.
‘Shine’ is an album which is beautifully written, played and recorded. It doesn’t seem to have wild ambitions, its personal, intimate and reflective, rather than outgoing and bold. It does feel timeless, songs written over a 10 year period to reflect different emotions and thoughts over a long period. Halli Sveinbjörnsson, in the guise of Red Barnett, has produced an album which I like very much, which I will frequently return to, and I hope he finds some more time over the next ten years to write a few more songs for us all.
Nordic Music Review 8/10