Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ice Cream Is Nice (monsters are not)

For some reason the most wanted items always take the longest time to arrive and never has it been truer than with this CD. It has been several years in the making and then two different Amazon Marketplace sellers let me down on this one (the only two times this has ever happened to me and so I’m not planning to dwell on it). When it finally arrived this morning I hardly dared listen to it. I had high hopes based on the single ‘Tomoko’, (available on vinyl and which I have) but what if it was to prove an overall disappointment after all the waiting and the effort to get it? I can’t tell you what might have been but I can say that it is far better than I dared hope for.
This is an album that proves ‘pop’ is not a dirty word after all and also that the genre is far from exhausted! Better still, but rather unfairly as it deserves a wide audience, you’ll probably have this gem almost to yourself at least for now be that for your own listening or for confounding your friends.

Dirty Paper Cup is an odd name for an album but then its maker is called Hafdis Huld Thrastardottír, though she drops the last name for stage purposes. She is Icelandic, was formerly a singer with the nine-piece-collective Gus Gus, and that is probably all you need know about her back catalogue as this album is totally different. It is basically acoustic/electronic pop with more than the occasional strangely un-pop lyric (her shoes used to be a crocodile - Tomoko) all sung in a voice that ranges from a rather characteristic tuneful loud whisper to a sweet if slightly husky soprano. It is also much more than that for the arrangements are often as sparse as they are beautiful.

The ‘Dirty Paper Cup’ of the title is explained in track 7, in case you were wondering, and the very curious title for this review comes from track 8. I might be suffering from a case of track 6, but it is that kind of album: 13 tracks packed into 42 minutes and only one makes the four-minute mark. Not one even tempts me to make the effort of skipping it, which is the defining moment for a really good album. The final track, the short Sumri Hallar, is sung in Icelandic.

The penultimate track Who Loves The Sun? is indeed a cover of the Lou Reed song, which was the opening track on the 1970 album Loaded, the fourth studio album by the ‘The Velvet Underground’ but never before did it sound like this (this track in particular reminds me of Isobel Campbell's solo stuff) and I haven’t come across a cover of such an old track that really works since Vanessa Carlton covered 'The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black on her 2002 début album Be Not Nobody but the same song was also covered (in Japanese) by Utada Hikaru on her 1999 album First Love.
That said Nothing Else Matters was ingeniously and quite shamelessly covered by Lucie Silvas and it appears - as a piano ballad - on her 2004 début album Breathe In. Many of her fans didn't even realise that it was a cover of a track originally written and recorded by 'Metallica' and taken from their eponymous first album that was released in 1991.


Héctor said...

Hi from Madrid. Very interesting your post of Hafdis Huld, congratulations for your new CD! One question: Where does the CD title come from? What does it mean? I can´t find the lyrics of the album, and I don´t understand all the English I hear. Thanx!

Richard G said...


Thank you for your kind comment. Your English is very good but my Spanish is not. Sorry.

I will try to do my best to answer your questions. Song lyrics are often difficult to understand, even in your own language, and I can't find those for "Dirty Paper Cup" on 'Google', but I guess you had already tried that. It is even more difficult because some of the songs are very strange - I still can't understand what the song "Ski Jumper" is about. In English "ski jumper" is both "saltador de esquí" and "jersey de esquí" and it seems that she sometimes means one and sometimes the other!

The best I can do is to say that "Dirty Paper Cup" is roughly translated as "Taza Sucia en Papel" and it is a lyric from the song "Happily Ever After". It is very difficult song to understand because, coming from Iceland, Hafdis speaks English with an unusual accent.

The story of the song is something like this:

Girl meets boy by a fountain and she asks if he wants to share a bit of time talking, "hoping for a positive answer".
They talk for a long time and he listens attentively and she says "and you smile and understand that is a compliment" . She likes him very much and, when they have to part, he gives her his phone number written on a 'dirty paper cup'. The often-repeated lyric in the song is 'We could live happily ever after' - something possibly like '(juntos) felizamente poderíamos vivir para siempre'.

I will try to find the lyrics of the whole album soon and I have now added my e-mail to my Blogspot profile so, if you want to ask more, please feel free to use it.


San said...

Hi there ! More than a year later, here I come with the lyrics :
That being said, some songs are still hard to understand :)