Also affiliated with the Icelandic indie acts Seabear and Sin Fang, Sóley Stefánsdóttir performs delicate electronic pop on her own as just Sóley. Inspired by Scandinavian acts such as Sigur Rós and Múm, she began making music in her teens, and studied piano and composition at the Icelandic Art Academy in 2007. During that time she also played and sang with Seabear and Sin Fang, both with Sindri Már Sigfússon, though at first she was afraid to sing too close to the microphone. She overcame that fear with experience and began work on her solo project, issuing her debut EP, Theater Island, on Morr Music in 2010. The following year, her first album, the more fleshed-out We Sink, arrived. In 2014, after several years of writing and touring, she delivered Krómantík, an eight song EP of solo piano pieces, followed a year later by her second album Ask the Deep. Inspired by a note she wrote to herself upon waking in the middle of the night -- "Write about hope and spring" -- 2017's Endless Summer carried a more whimsical tone and piano-centric palette. The following year, she released a lusher collaboration with Sin Fang and Múm's Örvar Smárason called Team Dreams.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 2, 2011 | Morr Music
The combination of clear, gently piercing and reverbed vocals, piano, and buried glitch beats on "I'll Drown" shows that from the start Seabear member Sóley Stefánsdóttir is working in her own particular tradition of avant pop, emphasis on the pop -- a very 21st century combination that couldn't have quite existed before that moment but at the same time has clear roots in the past. The sense of mournful elegance and quiet joys continues throughout We Sink, Sóley's singing half-sweet naif, half-contemplation over an understated variety of arrangements and textures. The interplay of strings, a rhythmic tone, steady drumming, and a distant electric guitar figure on "Dance" is a nicely representative example of how she aims for recombination of elements without trying to sound like one thing or another per se -- neither genre reinvention nor innovation, it is just a way to make things work nicely in combination with her vocals, in the same way that piano and what sounds like strange metallic scrapes, perhaps like rail lines, on "Fight Them Soft" work throughout that brief song. Other songs are slightly more conventional in orchestration, like the piano-led "Blue Leaves" and the hollow drum machine and soft organ arrangement of "And Leave," but the performances are strong enough in their own right. More than once she goes for stark acoustic guitar and soft singing, which lends a bit of a skeletal Mazzy Star feeling to things. But on a song like "Bad Dream," where she suddenly shifts to multi-track vocals on the final words, an individual stamp is clear, as much as the sense of soft pep in her singing. When she ramps up a bit the impact is all the more forceful even with restraint -- "Pretty Face" turns into a combination of smoky Julee Cruise ballad and fast-paced, Latin-tinged sprightly kick, with elements carefully added throughout up to guitar and handclaps even as she seems to drift along the arrangement. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
Pop - Released May 8, 2015 | Morr Music
Ask the Deep is the second full-length album by Icelandic singer and multi-instrumentalist Sóley Stefánsdóttir. Building on the elegantly moody art pop of her 2011 debut We Sink, Ask the Deep is ultimately bigger in scope, though no brighter in tone. It follows her sparse, 2014 instrumental piano EP Krómantík, combining that release's avant composition style with the strange, maudlin warmth of her debut, resulting in a dreamy world of treated pianos, smoky synth textures, glitchy beats, and Sóley's quietly engaging vocals. Her world is one of lonesome landscapes, inner devils, and deep, nocturnal musings and it's a place she inhabits quite naturally. There's barely any of the chilly exterior and austerity that often accompanies this type of slow, highly atmospheric pop and her approach on standouts like "The Devil," "Ævintyr," and "Halloween" feels very personal, drawing the listener in with an inviting, candlelit aura. There's an understated majesty to many of the tracks, like the Philip Glass-inspired "Follow Me Down" and the spooky, pipe organ hymn "I Will Never," and the album's pace, while never uptempo, somehow doesn't drag, either. Sóley plays with various moods within the album's parameters, following the sad, stark "One Eyed Lady" with the sinister instrumental interlude "Óhljó∂," and changing tack just often enough to keep things interesting without disrupting the flow. Her respect for the the songs' architecture helps to strike a nice balance between her innate experimentalism and the desire to connect using relatable emotions and melodies. Smart, intimate, and challenging, Ask the Deep is a bold second effort from an intriguing artist. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
Pop - Released May 5, 2017 | Morr Music
After establishing a contemplative, overcast chamber electro-pop across a span of two albums, Icelandic musician Sóley Stefánsdóttir veers slightly off her established course to take a more scenic route for her third solo LP. Titled Endless Summer, it took inspiration from a note she scribbled down after waking in the middle of the night: "Write about hope and spring." Still restrained and artful in its detailing, the album takes on a more whimsical tone and piano-centric palette than her prior effort, 2015's Ask the Deep, while still sounding uniquely Sóley. It opens with a passage of solo piano from the instrument's upper range on "Úa," which shares her daughter's name. The intimate piece, full of sweetness and dissonance, incorporates twinkling mallet percussion, horns, strings, and howling vocals in turn, with the overall effect of an off-kilter nursery rhyme. Likewise, several passing moments on Endless Summer, some of which unfold during the waltz "Traveler," are remindful of Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals, particularly "Aquarium," both in terms of palette and technique (something we've heard before from Sóley on a track like "Fight from Soft" from her debut). She infuses the album with a similarly fantastical charm and discreet volume. Both a songwriter and colorist, she seems to embrace pastels instead of blues and silvers here, without ever reaching for a rainbow. It's a brief outing at just over 30 minutes with seven songs and a short instrumental interlude ("Inbetween"). Still, it has time to transport and make an impression, emotionally and sonically, traits that all of Sóley's work to date has in common. © Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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