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.
Þórir Georg (My Summer as a Salvation Soldier)
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.
Apparat Organ Quartet
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.
Pink Street Boys
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.
Great list. I’ve heard of most of these bands (BIG fan of Apparat, FM Belfast, FaMR, and Samaris), and I’m eager to check out the ones I haven’t heard of, like Knife Fights and Pink Street Boys. But no mention of Agent Fresco?! :-O
It was more difficult than I thought in putting together a limited list, it originally started out as 10 bands… But, you mentioned Agent Frisco, so in the event someone reads the comments, they’ll know to look them up as well.
Where is Tilbury?
I had them in a similar post a year or so ago. Great band indeed
I agree it’s difficult to make such a list. If i could, I would like to mention two other icelandic bands I love (but there are not the only ones) : Nóra and Vigri.
Of course, Vigri is one of the first bands I actually did a blog on, if not the first. They’ve been working on a new album for a year or so now, can’t wait for it to come out.
I can’t wait too. I saw them at the Last airwaves and the new songs are awsome 😉
Here in France, we are wondering how you can have so many good bands. The icelandic scene is amazing !
No Singapore Sling?
Cool band, but no room this go around.
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You left out Mínus and Brain Police. Therefore you are not to be trusted.
Both good, but neither have released anything in the last 7 years. Though I’m looking forward to seeing Brain Police at Airwaves this year, and their new release.
🙂 yeh I know, I was just joking anyway. Greats bands but the list is really good!
You should also name Svavar Knutur
You should have included Svavar Knútur.
And where is Pascal Pinon?
I cut them at the last minute, but they were contenders for sure. But Samaris is on there, which is Jófríður Ákadóttir’s other project.
Great list! I didn’t know about some of the bands. The icelandic music scene seems to be full of pure gold! One of the icelandic bands I haven’t seen much people talk about is Muck, but I’m sure you know them.
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You should check out Hindurvættir! Someone needs to spread the word on the music scene up north!
Kinda metal-ish right? From Akureyri I believe, correct? I’ll give ’em a better listen. Thanks for the suggestion!
It’s not the usual type of metal though, you can find some of their music on Soundcloud. If that’s not your cup of tea there’s a lot more going on in the music scene up north.