Having already curated a delightfully dreamy discography that captivates a steadily growing international fanbase, jazz pop extraordinaire Laufey leaves audiences spellbound with her sophomore studio album, Bewitched, released on Sept. 8. With velvety vocals, orchestral magnificence and lyricism that overflows with vulnerability and poetic prowess, Laufey crafts a cathartic collection of songs that glisten with intimacy and poise.
Born Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir, 24-year-old Laufey makes music that bursts with heart and candor, consistently evolving in her technique and experimentalism as the years progress. Yet she maintains the same amorous, youthful charm as in the earlier projects that marked her solo career in 2020, continuing to blend classical, bossa nova and jazz influences into a style entirely her own.
Bewitched, the Chinese-Icelandic star’s newest album, tracks the escapades of what it means to be in love, whether she is met with arduous challenges or euphoric triumphs. Teeming with life and movement, the album flaunts Laufey’s extensive classical training and strays from her prior, more simple bedroom pop aesthetic. The lush symphonic accompaniment, in collaboration with the world-class Philharmonia Orchestra, contributes to the golden splendor of Laufey’s ingenuity, while her soaring vocals are steady, confident and prouder than ever.
The record begins with “Dreamer,” a delightful ode to relishing in the hopeless romantic pastimes of daydreaming and living with one’s head in the clouds. Enraptured listeners may notice that the twinkling and catchy percussion, honeyed vocal harmonies and showtune-esque jazz sensibilities perfectly parallel the refinement and charisma of Old Hollywood sound.
As the album continues, Laufey grapples with the daunting and heartbreaking sensations of inadequacy and abandonment. Diverging entirely from the flashy lead-off track, the record’s second, fittingly titled “Second Best,” is a swanky and sorrowful lamentation of not being chosen in the end despite yearning for love. Beginning with a sultry yet minimalistic guitar melody and alto vocals, the song develops into a heartbreaking story of defeat with angelic choir and string accompaniments during the bridge.
Laufey’s work with the Philharmonia Orchestra began with her melancholic 2021 single “Let You Break My Heart Again,” where the talented string, harp and wind musicians work in impressive legato tandem to enliven a wistful, whimsical ballad of longing. After several years of enthusiastic collaboration, the London-based orchestra remains resplendent with each new song Laufey writes. “California and Me” proves to be no different. The track contains the same instrumental elements of “Let You Break My Heart Again,” but flourishes primarily as a lively piano composition. Dejected and bitter, Laufey croons, “Left me and the ocean for your old flame / Holding back my tears, I couldn’t make you stay.”
While a symphony exquisitely embellishes the somber songwriting Laufey has perfected, the orchestra additionally thrives during tracks that illuminate the profound, disarming elation Laufey feels when she is in love. “Lovesick” contains crisp forte vocals, conjoining upbeat contemporary percussion, guitar with choir and vibrant violin. “When the gold rays fell on your skin/ And my hair got caught in the wind/ The choir sang a melancholic hymn,” Laufey serenades.
Bewitched largely focuses on passionate infatuation, but in “Letter To My 13 Year Old Self,” Laufey dedicates a heartwarming tribute to the teenage version of herself, urging her to authentically embrace her quirks and fully accept that she is beautiful. Here, Laufey captivates with her assured exploration of cultural identity, genre and womanhood.
The album ends with its crown jewel and namesake, accented by melodiously bright violin and warm, smooth cello. “Bewitched” is surreal and magical, detailing lovestruck dashes down London streets and sacred moments exchanged between lovers.
Although she might benefit from further exploration of varying lyrical themes, Laufey is truly the master of her craft. Surpassing 5.7 million streams on its first day, Bewitched “cast a spell” on the masses and is sure to enchant for years to come.