Growing up, Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir found that the jazz singers of the past, with their rumbling low registers, resonated more deeply with her than charting pop vocalists. As Laufey, her style falls somewhere between the two, meshing jazz instrumentation and the careful diction of the Great American Songbook with contemporary themes: big city living, social media, the anxiety of being in the “talking stage” with a crush. The Icelandic-Chinese singer-songwriter learned piano and cello from her mother, violinist Lin Wei, and started making a name for herself on TikTok, posting snippets of original music and covers of songs by Chet Baker and Billie Eilish. There, she found a Gen Z audience eager to hear classic vocal jazz made cool again, including Eilish, who reshared her version of “My Future.”
On Bewitched, Laufey’s second full-length, big feelings—eternal hope, unconditional love—take center stage. It’s bolder and more intentional than her 2022 debut, Everything I Know About Love, which felt more like a sketchbook compiling the artist’s assumptions and hesitations on the topic. Here, Laufey doesn’t simply let jazz inform the work; she uses it as a vehicle to enact fantasies and ambitions, lending her contemporary musings a misty, out-of-time quality. On opener “Dreamer,” Laufey rolls her eyes at the doom loop of casual dating. “No boy’s gonna kill the dreamer in me,” she sings, leading an arrangement that develops from soft piano to a blithe cloud of bass, glockenspiel, and jazz brushes. More than its literal commentary, “Dreamer” establishes one of Jónsdóttir’s primary artistic impulses: to never sacrifice a sense of wonder, no matter how painful the circumstances.
This sense of wonder translates even when Laufey experiments with pop, as on “Lovesick.” The narrator pines for an absent lover, so enamored with their presence that silence is frightening. When Laufey abandons her guitar and bursts into the soaring chorus, she takes a page from Taylor Swift’s high-romance songbook—think “Enchanted” or “Treacherous.” Laufey counts Swift as an influence and, as a young musician, “the only music [she] listened to that wasn’t jazz or classical.” Emulating her explosive verse-chorus technique allows the song to arrive at an intensity of emotional release that Laufey’s usual, more tender approach rarely does. The interplay between the smooth, ascending strings and rolling percussion mirror a confusing cross of emotions, like excitement and anxiety dueling in the pit of your stomach.
Bewitched includes one classic song, “Misty,” composed by pianist Erroll Garner with lyrics by Johnny Burke. It’s not the first time Jónsdóttir has recorded a jazz standard, nor her first time covering “Misty,” which she described in a 2021 YouTube video as “one of her all-time favorite songs.” While the video take is bare and gentle as a lullaby, the album track is fleshed out with piano, bass, and drums, as Garner originally recorded it. Jónsdóttir’s voice is nimble, her familiar timbre occasionally dipping into richer tones. The production is straightforward and organic, emphasizing clarity and presenting the song with both personal flair and reverence for history. It’s right at home in Bewitched’s lovelorn tracklist.
Laufey often sings about dreaming of a life that’s just like the movies, but all over Bewitched are hints that she loves the mundane just as much. Her appeal lies in how she narrates this dichotomy, best encapsulated in the album’s penultimate track, “Letter to My 13 Year Old Self.” “I’m so sorry that they pick you last/Try to say your foreign name and laugh,” she sings, as muffled piano and plucked guitar gently rock her adolescent self to sleep. Her words are tinged with the heartache of youth, when being different feels like a nightmare. But when the arrangement expands to include strings, it becomes buoyant and dreamy. Even talking to herself, Laufey’s spell is unbroken.
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