On a horrible, windy, rainy night following so closely on the heels of lovely, warm weather, Ideal Bar feels especially welcoming, and Ólöf Arnalds feels like the perfect performer to distract from the nastiness outside. The múm member’s elfin soprano and finger-picked guitar are, even at their most melancholic, infused with the brightness of spring. She is cheerful and playful from the outset, cracking jokes that she “tunes because she cares” when her between song prep takes longer than she would like.
Though most of her set is in English, Arnald still manages to work in a few Icelandic songs, as well as caving to what she refers to as the temptation to sing a song taught to her during Danish classes in elementary school. There are also covers from Arthur Russell and Caetano Veloso which emphasize how unique her style of songwriting is — the way her fingers scuttle up and down the fretboard, how her vocals are drawn out in such a way that minimizes her accent and allows her to warble on wordless notes. But there is something charming in hearing her lilt clobber the “better, better, better” outro of “Maria Bethânia.”
Then again, charm seems to be why people are here, sitting so quietly that Arnalds finds it worthy of a comment. That’s part of the reason why things feel so comfortable, even when she stumbles halfway into a song and needs to start again, even when she’s laughing at her inability to wrap up her final song, “German Fields.” She isn’t flustered, so we aren’t flustered. We’re all friends here.