Hafdis Huld – Dare To Dream Small

Album Review | Red Grape Music | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 3/5

Icelandic singer Hafdis joined Icelandic electronica band GusGus at its inception and was vocalist with FC Kahuna on their album Machine Says Yes and the hypnotic single “Hayling”.  Hafdis also appeared on Tricky’s Knowle West Boy album.  Dare To Dream Small is Haidis’ fourth solo album.  It’s Huld’s glorious warm voice that stays with you from this album, carried by delicate and deft playing and arrangements.  On the tracks with a full band there is a bright acoustic pop feel, with the lightness of touch and bounce of Fairground Attraction.  Perhaps it is not coincidence then that Simon Edwards Double Bass player with Fairground Attraction plays on “Dream Small”.  There is also a rich collection of writing collaborators, with Tim Gordine, Calum MacColl, Alisdair Wright who plays on the album, Nick Kershaw and Boo Hewerdine sharing the credits.  Alisdair’s playing forms the core of the accompaniment as he gently layers in guitars and washes of keyboards, creating textures and atmospheres in which Hafdis’ vocals are centre stage and can really shine.  She has a skilful way of breathing spark and warmth into lyrics that are often sharply observed and anything but bright and uplifting.  Placing slightly left field observations like the oversized jumper in “Fineshade Forest” against the ‘almost sadness’ of the kerbside figure captured in “By The Road”.  Wonderful hooks on tracks like “Last Rays Of The Sun” are infectious and classic, making you feel like you have known these songs your whole life.  “Leaving Me Behind” and “By The Road” underpin the lightness of touch on the album, with the beautiful track spun out of Hafdis’ breathy vocal and gossamer light plucked guitar.  Huld shines too on the more layered piano ballads like “Violet” and “Underdog” whether she is plaintive over the solo keyboard or double tracked over the wonderfully melancholic string section her voice is perfect and beautiful like snow or ice crystals.  At times the interplay between Hafdis’ reflective vocal and the piano refrains on “Is It Better” recalls Joni Mitchell at her most stripped back on Blue.  “Is It Better” with its icy piano intro, sublime vocal, infectious lyric and slowly building atmosphere is another example of a perfect song you feel that you have known your whole life.  Huld’s vocal against the jazzy guitar chords and Simon Edwards Double Bas on “Dream Small” demonstrates that she can do smouldering torch singer too.  Album closer is a darker, slightly claustrophobic track with an edge and a touch of 80s electronica about it, leaving you with a sense of intrigue and  sense of the depths beneath the bright delicate acoustic music that makes up much of Dare To Dream Small.  This one will grow on you.