Ólafur Arnalds Ólafur ArnaldsAnother Happy Day
You can believe in destiny or not, but if you've followed the career of Ólafur Arnalds you must have always known this day would come. His compositions, already sounding like a sensitive soundtrack for stories that only happen in dreams, had, at some point, to be used for a picture, like the scores made by similar composers like Nico Muhly or Jóhann Jóhannsson. “Another Happy Day” isn't really an important film, it's an indie title for the Sundance and small festival circuit, the directing debut of young actor Sam Levinson, but it is one to start gaining experience with. Ólafur is young, too, hard- working, talented and with a bright future ahead. And, although we might think that everything had to lead up to this, his first score won't be his last, but the start of a period of professional fortune that, who knows, might end up in Hollywood.
The idea is not farfetched at all. Michael Nyman, one of the composers Ólafur Arnalds has been looking at the most, ended up there, albeit briefly, even winning an Oscar for “The Piano”. There's a lot of Nyman in the main theme, which surfaces first on “Autumn Day” and returns, with variations and different instrumentation, on “Lynn’s Theme”, reminiscent of the teary-eyed friction of the strings on “Wonderland”, one of the Brit's best soundtracks of his post-Greenaway and post-Champion era. But it would be unfair to reduce this record to that brief trace of a simple but well-found melody that sticks in your head: Arnalds' plasticity, his ability to express tenderness and to move, and even suggest suspense, is perfectly reflected in these eleven short pieces, almost miniatures (the longest one is “Everything Must Change”, exceptional with its six minutes of duration, even more so compared to “Through The Screen”, “Before The Calm” and aforementioned “ Lynn’s Theme”, which don't even reach the two-minute mark, with their crystalline pianos and violins swaying like branches in the wind), but which say everything there is to say regardless.
Of all of Ólafur Arnalds' records, which are many and all of them valuable, his masterpiece might still be “…And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness” (2010), much more ambitious and complete; compared to that, “Another Happy Day” is what it really is, a work on request, made with a deadline and according to the tone of the film. But the Icelandic genius manages two important things: first, he delivers the goods and shows he's able to do this kind of thing efficiently, and second and more importantly, he can do it without betraying his style, being lyrical and minimalist (and maintaining the moments of electronic and cold darkness that already appeared on some of his other works for Erased Tapes), establishing himself as a fine torch carrier of the Michael Nyman and Max Richter school, albeit maybe with more lyrical intentions, and reaching the same level as his peers with this form of classical music for pop ears.