Recently, Björk has spoken of her great admiration for Jófríður Ákadóttir, her fellow Icelandic multi-instrumentalist. Now signed to Houndstooth, JFDR, as she’s professionally known, has previously collaborated with the likes of Olafur Arnalds and shares a great many eclectic influences, as with Iceland’s best-loved icon.
So Museum should possibly have an experimental flavour to it, as befits many of the finest Icelandic artists who are not Björk – acts like Sigur Rós, Slowblow, múm, Amiina and Gus Gus. It starts off strongly, with the woozy waltz that is The Orchid: rather lovely, with a Victorian music box quality, and commanding vocals comparing the lifespan of a love affair to the brevity of flowers. Unfortunately, the album rather loses its own bloom over some of the tracks that follow.
It isn’t at all bad, per se. Akadottir’s voice has a sweet if grainy tenderness akin to Daughter’s Elena Tonra. But it just feels a little anaemic, with not enough variety to sustain its entirety. This ‘less than the sum of its parts’ approach seems to be a current trend with singer-songwriters whose music leans towards the quiet and contemplative. The problem is, without enough invention and obvious hooks, it often results in bland, inoffensive music dripping in earnestness. Essentially, it can be little more than dinner party music for the chattering classes, a tasteful tilt to sophistication as the brie, grapes and Pinot Noir are wheeled out. Museum suffers from this affliction.
Valentine‘s vocals warp rather wonderfully, as piano lines trickle like raindrops, giving the song an eerie and off-kilter feel, like a macabre art installation melting on ice. Life Man has an itchy restlessness, as alluring as the rest is soporific. It would just be nice to see JFDR break loose from her polite niche and create something absolutely astonishing – the potential is there.