by Thomas Bedward October 21, 2020
It’s been quite some time since Haraldur V. Sveinbjörnsson first took over the blossoming Icelandic music scene, launching his career from the quiet town of Lund with the help of his musical alter ego, Red Barnett. A talented multi-instrumentalist, Haraldur first came to prominence with the release of ‘Shine’ in 2015, a stellar indie-infused debut that would go on to win the Iceland Music Awards prize for best alternative album. It was an auspicious and wonderfully promising start for the confessed musical hermit, and now, five years later, Haraldur is ready to release its successor.
Now a six-piece band, Red Barnett travelled to Rockfield Studios in Wales to work on their highly anticipated second album, recording eleven original songs in the famous Quadrangle Studio and finally bringing ‘Astronauts’ to life.
Opening with ‘Sky’, the new album wastes no time in announcing itself as a true, cosmic experience, weaving soft piano notes and harmonious vocals into a masterclass in emotive indie soundscapes. Touching on the familiar and much-loved sound of Death Cab For Cutie, it’s a celestial intro to an already impressive album. Followed by the highly celebrated lead single ‘Astronaut’, the magic continues to flow, offering an upbeat, almost hopefully tempo, nuanced guitar chords, and light flickering piano keys that flow deep into the ether and call out for a human connection.
Lingering with shades of ambient indie brilliance, ‘For A Friend’ finishes the cosmic trilogy in perfect form, setting the scene for a very unexpected turn of pace. Armed with far more straightforward rock textures, ‘Turning Up’ and ‘Julie’ announce themselves with a quick barrage of cinematic sounds, alt-rock textures and dynamic glimpses of brass and rustic country class. It’s a temporary burst of more explosive indie sounds, and quick as the two tracks came, they disappear with a flurry, fading back into more tactile and sentimental sounds.
One of the many highlights, ‘So Hard To Sleep’ is a triumphant return to slow-burning, emotionally charged pieces, capturing a true minimalist sound that puts all the focus on the vocals, carrying the emotion with a fearless vulnerability. Following number ‘Star’ seamlessly blends the two styles, shining through fits of reverb, while ‘Moon’, ‘Landslide’, and ‘Serenade’ wrap themselves in threads of warm, acoustic guitar and ambient string sections. It’s a magical series of tracks, one that perfectly sets the stage for the album’s defining moment, ‘Satellite’. A final, emotionally charged ballad complete with piano, strings, dual vocals and infinite emotion, ‘Satellite’ is arguably Red Barnett’s finest song to date, offering a sharp rising crescendo that ends the album on a perfect high, becoming a song that you’ll return to time and time again.
Released only a few days ago, ‘Astronauts’ has already become one of this year’s great indie releases, offering a maelstrom of glistening, ambient releases that resound with emotive depth and true celestial brilliance. While the flow of the album might be momentarily uprooted by dynamic shift between styles, ‘Astronauts’ holds itself together with poise, style, and substance, ensuring that it is an album that was truly worth the wait.
You can stream ‘Astronauts’ above via Spotify, along with lead single ‘Astronaut’ on our Spotify playlists, and be sure to follow Red Barnett on their social media pages before so you never miss a release.
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