Last week I posted 15 bands I thought you should know. The response to that blog was somewhat incredible in my little blog world. Some of you are very, VERY, angry individuals, both towards the bands chosen as well as the person who’d dare pick some and leave others out. And some of you came up with great alternatives or bands you wished were on it.
So in this post, I took the top suggestions you commented and emailed about, as well as a few more new bands I think you should check out. As before, click on their name to find out more about them. So, without further ado:
A good indie style rock back, akin to “At the Drive In” They’ve been in the scene since 2008, and are working on a new album as we speak. A mellow style of math rock with creative licks and lyrics that seem to float over the top.
GusGus is indeed a veteran band of Iceland. A little bit of trip-hop, a lot electronic, the band has been on the scene for almost 20 years. Over the years, there have been many members, and those members have gone on to start production companies and other bands. GusGus can count musicians such as Emilíana Torrini, and Daníel Ágúst amongst their ranks. The above video is from the new Album Mexico, it’s a great album and I am currently working on a post about them, so stay tuned.
Reverent, conservative, Sunday morning driving music. Yeahno, they’ve been around since Christ was a child, and their music is crassly clever, aggressive punk rock promoting whatever they want when they want to. Oddly enough, on the East river walkway a few weeks ago, the song above came on, and as all the asshattedly good looking folks were surrounding me, it seemed the fitting soundtrack to my movie-like fantasty of tossing them into the river. A lot of fun to hear live, and their massive catalog of albums is worthy of your attention.
I’m actually quite glad a few people recommended this band. A large contrast to Reykjavik! Vigri is soothing, with floating lyrics over what on the surface appears to be mellow music. But there’s a hidden intensity that creeps up on you. I first saw them play two or so years ago, and last year at Airwaves I made everyone that came with me see the band at least once. Not one person came back with bad things to say, even the grumpy metal guy. I’m impatiently waiting patiently for the new album, the new material they played at Airwaves last year was fantastic.
Mínus was the first hardcore Icelandic band I heard. I believe it was Chimera off of the Fálkar soundtrack. Legend is Krummi Björgvinsson from Mínus and keyboardist Halldor Björnsson. It’s dark, sometimes industrial, sometimes rock, and it’s good, crazy good. These guys are not to be missed live.
I placed Samaris on the original list, one of the other projects by Jófríður Ákadóttir, but Pascal Pinon is the sweet, smooth and charming band of her and her sister, Ásthildur. Haunting vocals and soothing instrumentals make for a very relaxing, excellent combination. Excellent for when you just need to sit back and relax.
Good old fashion rock, nothing fancy but damn it’s good. They put on an extremely high energy live gig as well. Created by Þórir Bogason, somewhat a genius in the Icelandic music scene, their music just makes you feel good.
Snorri’s first band, Sprengjuhöllin was a super band of sorts. He epitomizes the hard work ethic of Icelandic musicians. He is constantly on the go touring everywhere he can while writing and releasing music. Later this year he will be in Connecticut with the likes of Lay Low and Svavar Knútur at the Icelandic music festival, Iceland Affair. He’s blessed with incredible writing skills, and his songs are summer porch gems to be shared with friends and beer.
There are two newer bands that I really feel you should check out:
The day before Airwaves of 2013, I was standing in Lucky records with only a handful of people, when just a DJ and Ragna (Cell 7) broke into her rap. It quickly reminded me of the old days, and her improvising, action with the crowd, and overall set was amazing. I highly suggest you check out her stuff, and if you can, pick up her new album, CELLF
Trippy, spacey grooves with an incredibly fluid high pitched voice. Dee-Lite has to love this DJ, and if you liked Dee-Lite you will love her as well. So, set up the disco ball, lava lamp and trip out.
So there you go, more Icelandic bands for you to get to know, this time crowd sourced for your listening pleasure. There is a lot of music out there, and it’s easy to find new stuff you yourself will dig. Check out the Iceland Music Export page, or get the book Blue Eyed Pop to learn more about the history, distant and yesterday, of the Icelandic music scene.
There are a lot of “top 10 Icelandic bands you should know” floating around these days. They all seem to list the same bands, half of which we already know.
By now, any person who even knows the minimal of Icelandic music knows bands and musicians such as the Sugarcubes, Björk, Sigur Rós, Ásgeir, Amiina, Mum, Seabear, Of Monsters and Men and Sin Fang. They are killing it on a global scope and are getting air play and reviews in almost every music mag out there, so I’m leaving them out of my list, they’re wonderful and loverly but we already know that.
There is a book on the history of pop and rock in Iceland called Blue Eyed pop. It’s an extremely entertaining read, all your favorite bands will be in there with their histories, and it’s shocking to see just how connected even the most distant genre types really are. It’s become one of my favorite books to loan to people, and the hardest book to get back when they’re done.
So here it is, my top 15 bands you should know, split into three categories, Veterans, Been around the blockers, and Freshies. Aside from that, there is no rhyme or reason to their order. Clicking on the band heading will take you to either a blog post I’ve written about them, or their respective interwebby pages:
I have been in love with this band since I first heard them almost a decade go. I love all three of their albums, and the sneak peaks we’re getting of the new album, such as the video above, make me happy indeed. They’ve been playing for over a decade and a half, and if you’re fans of that minimal yet heavy sound, you’ll go nuts for them. Click here for more info, including Soundcloud links. Perfect for twilight drives through the desert or pre-night shenanigans.
One of the best dance party bands out of Iceland, their live concerts typically end with hysteric crowds jamming around in nothing but their underwear. If they ever come near your town, they are a must see, you won’t be disappointed, well unless you don’t like to smile and dance. It’s hard to listen to their albums without jumping a little while smiling. I reviewed the new album here, and that post also has links to more of their goodiness. Perfect for party times and getting large crowds of people partially nekkid.
Imagine that, the crazy guy from the Sugarcubes has his own crazy band. By far my favorite band to see every year Iceland Airwaves, his break-neck rant-ish style backed up by the almost genius mixing of Curver Thoroddson make the perfect album for walking around a busy city. Another act that should be witnessed live for full effect. The video above also has Sóley, which I’ll get to later. Perfect for going crazy.
As My Summer as a Salvation Soldier, Þórir made one of my favorite songs, The River. It’s been quite a journey with his singer songwriter style, as it’s not all kumbyah’s and strumming around a campfire. There are pop ditties, and an album of split personalities harshly contrasting each other in thrash and calmness. It’s creative weirdness, and well worth getting into. Depending on the album, it’s perfect for most situations.
Part of the Icelandic supergroup Seabear, Sóley has quite the solo catalog under her belt. She took time off to raise a family after “We Sink” but I just saw her at ATP Iceland, and she’s definitely back in the thick of it. Her charming voice, and well orchestrated band make for a perfect evening/road trip record.
I’ve called her the offspring of Nancy Sinatra and June Carter. Her voice is full with the slightest hint of a smokey, well rounded accent. Her back catalog has quite the folk/country feel. And the new album, “Talking about the weather” has a more full, larger band approach. It’s one of my favorite road trip albums, and was on my top list of albums to come out last year. The video above is from the new album. For me, pretty much perfect anytime.
A stage completely filled with tubes, wires and organs. These guys are amazing live as nothing is typically preset. They are a fun, high energy band synthesizing the hell out of their organs for the audience and listeners enjoyment. In 2010 I saw them by accident at Airwaves, and I’ve been an uber-fan since. Perfect for all musically inclined nerds, for rocking out on the weekend, and for when you need a climatic build up before taking on the world.
Been around the blockers:
They’ve been called shoegazers, and I s’pose it fits. They won me over last year at Airwaves with both their interruptive irreverence at Harpa and their actual full gig. Heavy instruments and floating lyrics, excellent music for afternoon BBQ’s and video gaming sessions. Perfect for getting your jam on, I’ve yet to gaze at my shoes when seeing them.
Imagine if you will, walking right after twilight in the desert or across a foggy field of snow. Nothing but the wilderness casting strange shadows all around you as you trek forward towards your final destination. That’s how the very poetic sound of Samaris hits me. Their new album not available in the US yet, Silkidranga, is less atmospheric and more dance-like. But the trio’s ability to captivate my ADHD addled brain is quite impressive. Perfect for druidian chants in the countryside.
This 5 piece could almost be considered veterans as well, they’ve been at it for over 9 years. Their lead singer with her Grace slick style singing, over heavy instrumentation makes for great albums and great gigs. Perfect rock out music, the above video is their new, first official music video.
What started out as a high school songwriting project has turned into quite the band. They’ve had local success for years, but the new album has projected them into the global realm. Fantastic band live and on record, I highly suggest checking out their new album, Enter 4. Perfect for get togethers with friends, as well as swooning sessions over that damned sexy long blond head of hair.
Simple, yet energetic, I love this new band out of Iceland. It completely reminds me what we’d listen to on our way to the big city for gigs during the summers of my youth. There’s a sunny, west coast type Violent Femmes era feel to the music, and I haven’t come close to being sick of their album, “I need you to go to Hell.” Which I highly suggest you give a listen to. If this sucker gets heard, I really think it has potential to make a lot of folks happy this summer. Video above is their new video for my favorite song off their album.
Ohhh, sweet funky disco. This band won my favorite new act of 2013, incredibly fun to watch and the locals go crazy for them. Right this moment they have a crowd funding effort to put out their new album, so go help them out. And try to listen to their music without wiggling your butt…ain’t gonna happen. I was going to put an original track as the video, but I think this cover is pretty awesome.
Nooo shit, there’s a garage punk band that has emerged on the rock. A little Ramones, a little Deadbolt; A lot of Trans Am and Camero mullets. They are trashy, thrashy, and a completely new guilty pleasure of mine. Sometimes it’s the slimy little things in life that make one smile.
Recap and final band:
It’s difficult to limit my list with 10 or 15 bands,, as the scene is constantly changing, and there are always bands coming up that you should know. The best way to keep up on it is to check out The Icelandic Music Export website, blogs such as mine, or rok musik. There are still an epic amount of bands left, such as Grísalappalísa (punk), Snorri Helgason (folk), Sudden Weather Change (harder rock), For a Minor Reflection (Post-rock), Mr. Silla, Fufanu (electro-rock), and the old greats such as HAM, SH Draumur and etc…..
There is one band, of which I will never get to see live regrettably so. They were a great noisy punk experiment, and their music get played regularly at my house. Great for rocking out, and shaking your head when there really is no other way, I present Skátar playing Mahatma Gandhi with Gylfi of Kimono:
Update: Due to the overwhelming response this got, I have made a second list based on the readers suggested additions to this original ist.
At ATP Iceland this year, I had the pleasure to run into a certain journalist in Iceland. I’m being honest in saying it’s a pleasure as he’s about as delightfully entertaining as it gets. He gave me some pointers on my blog, most of which was that I need to be a bigger asshole, as I may come across as an ass kisser of sorts. So, in honor of him, I’m going to try this mean thing out… Let’s talk about Bob Cluness.
He’s an old crusty cantankerous Shetland Scot, who is slightly understandable by his second beer. By his sixth, it’s just spit and guttural noises, swear-to-god. He stumbles about Iceland grumbling about this band and that band cursing their very existence, and in the event he likes a band, he grumbles about how they’re going to fuck it up.
His Tweets typically tend to be entertaining extensions of his fuckery, incoherent rant-fests of his own creation, or in his moments of seemingly glee, the passing along of other rants he admires. He loves the word Fuck almost as much as he loves the band Coldplay. (which is a lot so I hear.)
Perhaps because of his impressive knowledge of music coupled with the fact that in person he’s a goddamned sweetheart is the only reason the Icelanders haven’t stuffed him in a barrel and dropped him into the sea.
My blog may seem a bit bubble gum and unicorn farts, but I’m not here to critique or tell a band what they could do to be better or differently, I’m promoting what I like while trying to give us English reading folks some background information on bands that otherwise may not get a lot of non-Icelandic write ups. It’s a personal blog, and I’ll be nice if I goddamned well and want to. And no, I’ve never literally kissed the ass of an Icelander, (that I remember, too many years of visiting and too many vodkas.)
That being said, if my blog were more about reviewing all things coming out of Iceland, and not just blogging about what I dig, I actually would agree with him, which in itself is understandably quite aggravating, that and the fact that Bob is indeed a fucking smiling, beer giving, sweetheart.
I really do suggest you follow him on Twitter (@bobcluness), as he is a riot. And you can read his rants, cursings, and entertaining reviews at Grapevine.
I figured he would punch me if I asked him my questions so I didn’t…. Now back to unicorn farts and bubble gum.
The night started out rainy, and grew to even rainier as we continued. But the bands were going at it with a vengeance, Low put on one of the highest energy sets I’ve seen from them, and Shellac just upped the anti. Kurt Vile & the Violators was mellow and matched the outside rain well, and Mogwai is Mogwai. They’ve become more docile in years and I miss them completely going nuts on stage, but the wall of sound was forceful, and I actually put in the ole earplugs.Spiritualized did an acoustic set with the gals from Amiina backing them up. It was in a theater setting and sounded quite nice.
The clouds opened up and Friday night was quite pleasant. I may have been the only guy in shorts, but it’s summer so that’s how it goes. The night started off with Sóley’s return, some great new stuff and of course the classics. Liars instantly notched up the high energy, and Slowdive’s performace was fantastic.
Portishead was amazing, so perfect, the sound, the video, everything about it was fantastic. It still looked like twilight outside, and there was a giant moon hovering in the sky as we left the show adding to the surreal ambiance they created.
There are plenty more pictures on my Flickr account for you to gaze at. Last night tonight here we go.
Another chunk o’bands have been released. This brings the announced total to 124, 63 of which are Icelandic. A lot of Icelandic veterans playing this year such as Sóley, Prins Póló, For a Minor Reflection and Validmar, and there are even more newbies that I look forward to hearing.
As the list is getting bigger, I am going to break down my Iceland Airwaves reference page into a few more categories hopefully later today, definitely by the end of the weekend.
You can see the full line up On the Iceland Airwaves site. And you can see the broad genre breakdown of the Icelandic artists on my Iceland Airwaves 2014 page. You can read all my posts on Iceland Airwaves here, and see my photos from 2013 here.
So get your tickets, it always sells out, and the longer you wait, the less options you will have for hotels and housing, it definitely is one festival where the more of an early bird you are, the better your choices are.
Why go all the way to a continent straddling island for a music fest? Perhaps because it’s at the old NATO base Ásbrú, perhaps because Iceland is really beautiful in the summer, and/or perhaps the fact that Portishead, Slowdive, Shellac, Interpol and Fuck Buttons, and all the other goody bands listed in the graphic above will be there.
This is the second ATP Iceland and combine it’s newness with their already selective process for music and you get a festival made just for music lovers. Neil Young and Ólafur Arnalds will be doing ATP Takeover events near the city on days leading up to the festival, and the long weekend of the festival looks to be chocked full of music and mayhem.
There are movies, DJ sets, as well as the concerts, so if you get bored that’s your own fault. The Icelandic music blog Rok Musik has a great post on the festival, and the folks over at Grapevine did a little Q&A with some of the artists coming up. Get yer tix and we’ll see you there.
I have to put in a special plug, as not only is Pharmakon from Sacred Bones Records playing, but the guru of Sacred Bones himself, Caleb is DJ’ing a set in the DJ tent. They are not Icelanders, but one of my favorite labels out of NY.
As this is an Icelandic music blog, or at least tries to be, I’ll forego my crushes and gushes for some of the non-Icelandic acts (Shell-Fukkin-Ac) and focus my admirations and infatuations on the Icelanders involved.
I put together a playlist on Soundcloud of the Icelandic bands playing, and I put videos down below for bands not really represented on Soundcloud.
It’s a mix of metal and electronics, all somewhat enjoyably on the heavy side. Epic metal veterans HAM will be there, as well as Icelandic music 101 staples, For a Minor Reflection, MAMMÚT, Singapore Sling. and self described “dynamite rockers” Náttfari are performing.
Sóley is back from the time she took off for her family, and it wouldn’t be an Icelandic gig without Sin Fang doing something for the crowd. The sweethearts of Pascal Pinon and Samaris are also doing a set, and one of the founders of the Bedroom community, Ben Frost, will be performing. Captain Fufanu has nixed the Captain, so Fufanu will be entertaining the masses, and adding another artist to the list of musicians I haven’t seen previously, Kría Brekkan (formerly, like 8 years and a musical lifetime ago formerly, of múm) will also be there.
So yes, you should be in Iceland mid July for this awesome festival, I will be. Learn more about it here.
This is the Playlist for all the bands, foreign and native alike:
spotify to follow soon.
Anytime an Icelandic band comes to Boston, I do everything I can to be there. As it so happens, the Ásgeir gig this last Friday coincided with my new purchase of a much faster camera lens. So, I was able to practice and catch a great gig, two birds…one stone kind of thing and the like. You can click any of these pics to see the actual photos on my Flickr account.
The gig was at Great Scott, a bar in Allston famous for hosting acts rather late in the night. FM Belfast played there last year also to a sold out crowd. It’s a simple set up, but the sound is typically good, and the beer and vodka rather cheap.
Connor Youngblood opened for the band. He’s a youngin’ out of Dallas Texas often seen on stage with multiple instruments strapped around him. His pedal boards were impressive, and so was his ability to shift between the sounds and loops he created during his songs. There is very little out there on him, but I did find this interview, and his website. (which could use an about me section.)
Ásgeir and his band of motley fools were next. Filling the tiny stage to it’s capacity and beginning the soothing songs he’s famous for. We luckily got to hear a few songs in Icelandic, and he did a very smooth, high pitched version of Heartshaped box a little more than halfway through his set. The girls, and a few guys, were swooning and it made taking photos nearly impossible as the crowd was all but sitting in the band’s lap on the stage.
I still have quite a bit of practice to get the hang of the new lens, there were noise issues, and a prime lens takes some getting used to. But the concert was great, and good times were had. So, thank you to Ásgeir‘s management for the opportunity to snap some shots, and thanks to Ásgeir and Connor Youngblood for a great gig.
It was a fantastic Iceland music snack before ATP Iceland, which is less than a month away. But that’ll be an entirely different post.