Nordic Music Central Viking Hero

Hafdís Huld (Iceland) – Sleep my darling (single/track from forthcoming album)

You’ll find all sorts in here. Today we have a lullaby. Sleep tight.

Somehow I’ve managed to overlook singer-songwriter Hafdís Huld,perhaps that’s because I don’t need to be sung to sleep these days; the beer usually does that job.

And that – ‘Lullabies’ – is what Hafdis is about on her forthcoming album of that title, which is an English language version of ‘Vögguvísur’, the most streamed record in Icelandic history. You thought that might be something by Björk, or Sigur Rós, or Of Monsters and Men, didn’t you? (And, truth to tell, so did I).

‘Lullabies’ was originally released in its Icelandic form in 2012, but on being added to Spotify in 2017 it skyrocketed into the collective consciousness of the frozen, windswept nation, becoming an unprecedented success. It has – get this – been Iceland’s #1 album for three years running – 2020-2022, together with regular single successes from it.

Indeed they changed the chart rules to exclude the singles from Iceland’s weekly radio chart show as the gentle bedtime lullabies were impacting on the feel of the show each week, interspersed with big pop numbers from international artists such as Harry Styles, who has much the same effect. Collectively they might have induced catatonia in listeners.

‘Lullabies’ is a collection of lo-fi acoustic lullabies, a mix of English classics, traditional Icelandic folk songs, and original material.

It began life when Huld and her English musical collaborator and husband Alisdair Wright were expecting their first child, and wanted to create music in their home studio that they could later play to their baby.

The first single ‘Sleep My Darling’, teases out the album and is an old Icelandic folk song, and the country’s most popular lullaby as well, about an outlaw on the run with his wife and baby.

I have to say I don’t get that from the lyrics. It’s a straight lullaby, with exactly the arrangement and words that you would expect from one. I can’t imagine anyone being ‘on the run’ in it.

The other thing I found surprising is that the translations of some of the songs from Icelandic into English (I don’t know if this is one of them) needed some thinking about because some of the ‘darkness’ in the traditional Icelandic lullabies had to be edited out.

Now there’s a thing – dark lullabies. I suppose they concern elves and trolls and supernatural Huldufólk and all the other things Icelanders fret about (including some adults).

But then again if you think about it haven’t we been scaring the kids stupid with Punch & Judy for centuries?

Rest assured there’s nothing dark about this song and the way it is delivered is reassuring, just as it should be, and endearing. I can imagine an entire nation dozing off to it when it starts to get dark, which is still about 3 o’clock in Iceland I reckon.

Hafdís Huld has quite a history. She started her music career with Gus Gus. After touring the world and releasing two albums with the band she moved on to work with UK based FC Kahuna. In 2006 Huld’s first solo album ‘Dirty Paper Cup’ won best pop album at the Icelandic Music Awards and ever since she has focused on her solo career releasing a total of eight albums and touring in Europe, America, and China.

‘Lullabies’ is out on 5th May via Stúdíó Suðurá.

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