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Hjaltalin - Terminal

  by Mark Rowland

published: 8 / 7 / 2010

Hjaltalin - Terminal
Label: Borgin Music
Format: CD


Innovative and uniquely original second album from cinematic Iceland group, Hjaltalín

It took two years for Hjaltalín’s excellent ‘Sleepdrunk Seasons’ to hit these shores, finding praise as soon as it got its UK release last year. Thankfully, we haven’t had to wait as long for ‘Terminal’, the band’s second album, which was released in their native Iceland at the end of 2009. Hjaltalín’s widescreen orchestral pop could be weighed against the Arcade Fire or the Polyphonic Spree, but such comparisons are lazy. Hjaltalín are pretty much out there on their own, mixing indie and pop with some rather overt classical, soul and jazz influences. There is something cinematic about their sound, and it is at once dramatic, uplifting, subtle and immediate. The opening bars of ‘Suitcase Man’ captures a menace and tension reminiscent of Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’ before becoming a slightly melancholy, rhythmic tune that brings to mind Radiohead backed by an orchestra. As the song goes on, the overtly orchestral elements melt away to be replaced by poly-rhythms, stuttering guitars, horns and flutes. ‘Sweet Impressions’ is a lovely little tune, sweeping and optimistic-sounding, with some great vocal interplay between Högni Egilsson (male) and Sígridur Thorlacius (female). The song goes disco about halfway through. What’s not to love? Thorlacius’ impressive lungs take the reins on ‘Feels Like Sugar’, which is a very big tune indeed. The slightly jazzy inflections, orchestral pomp and thumping drums bring to mind Motown and the female solo pop singers of the 60s. It’s glorious; its camp soulfulness should be wholeheartedly embraced without fear. Kicking in after a ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’-like intro, ‘Song From Incidental Music’ is one of the most cinematic sounding tracks, Egilsson singing with a breathy, jazzy delivery that brings to mind Nick Drake. By the end, he sounds a little Scott Walker-ish, albeit a little less croony. ‘Montabone’ might scare off a few listeners, as it sounds like it could have been lifted straight out of a musical. Please, stick with it; it is a genuinely good song. The disco’s back on ‘Stay By You’, though it is more of a light smattering of disco, sort of a little like – gulp – Abba. That said, though it is a 70s disco/glam inflected pop song, the song itself is nothing like Abba; in fact, it’s probably one of the best on the album. Perhaps it’s more like those rare occasions when Wings were really good. All the songs on ‘Terminal’ are good enough to warrant a few lines here, but to truly do this album justice we’d be here all day. It’s a great, multi-textured, daring indie pop record that deserves to be heard.

Track Listing:-
1 Suitcase Man
2 Sweet Impressions
3 Feels Like Sugar
4 Song from Incidental Music
5 Montabone
6 Stay by You
7 Hooked on Chili
8 Sonnet for Matt
9 7 Years
10 Water Poured in Wine
11 Vanity Music

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