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15 Icelandic bands you may not know, but should

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:

Veterans:

Kimono

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.

FM Belfast

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.

Ghostigial

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.

Sóley

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.

Lay Low

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:

Oyama

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.

Samaris

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.

MAMMÚT

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.

Hjaltalín

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.

Freshies:

Knife Fights

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.

Boogie Trouble

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.

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My top 10 must see bands for Iceland Airwaves 2013

blarghKraftwerk is headlining, Ólafur Arnalds is doing magical things with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and Emiliana Torrini is going to charm our socks off.  But what about the other bands?  I’ve written tips for getting the most out of your Airwaves experience, I’ve posted all the Icelandic bands playing Airwaves with links to a plentiful supply of all their songs, and now, the top 10 bands you do not want to miss, in my humble opinion of course.  So give it a listen, keep updated by visiting Grapevine’s Airwaves blog, and plan plan plan.

Kimono:

I love this band, they skipped out last year, but I’m glad they are back and I can’t wait to hear the new stuff.  It is rumored there may be an electronic element sneaking into the set.  How to describe them, think modern Wire with a twist.  Prog-metal if you want to get all fancy and the like, or perhaps just don’t describe them and tell people to go and listen for their own damned selves.

Clicking the band name above will take you to my blog on them, they have one of the most extensive soundcloud pages you will find:

Apparat Organ Quartet:

Even with the missing member from last year’s festival, Apparat Organ Quartet consistently put on one of the best shows of the festival.  If you have never seen them play I highly suggest you do so as I’ve yet to hear anyone new to them dislike their sound.  Clicking on their name will take you to my blog post on them, and here is Konami:

FM Belfast:

Yes I saw them earlier this year, but in their native land this band really cranks out a party, it’s typical for other musicians to magically appear and dance on stage with them, and they are one of those bands that really gets the crowd going.  I’d suggest you go with clean underwear, as chances are you’ll be dancing in them by the end of their set.  Best gig I’ve seen was at the infamous NASA, hoping they try and top it this year.

Clicking on the name takes you to my blog post on them, and this olld video is still a favorite of mine:

In the Company of Men:

Diversity is key at this festival, and these bat-shit crazy monkeys really know how to throw down on stage.  It’s organized chaos and very Dillinger Escape Plan-ish.  Can’t wait to see them live.  The title above takes you to my blog-post for more info, and here’s a video

Samaris:

Recently signed to One Little Indian records, and with a new album comprised of their E.P’s, I’m very curious to hear how they sound live.

Zola Jesus:

On Sacred Bones Records, Zola Jesus never fails to amaze.  She’s a force to be reckoned with and her hauntingly good music is going to be a treat for the Icelandic scene.

Ghostigital:

Seriously, if you haven’t seen these guys play, make this a priority.  Curver and Einar örn are staples and their show is awesome crazy.  I try to see them whenever I can, they have crazy instruments, a crazy leader, and a baby blue trumpet.  How could you not want to see it

Oyama:

A band of many bands, Oyama’s roster includes members from a lot of other bands you will hear this week.  They put on a great show, and you do not want to miss it.  Click the band name for my blog post on them, and listen here:

Amiina:

Amiina never fails, with their creative implementation of items as instruments, haunting voices, and endless supplies of charm you really need to take a breathe and take in an Amiina gig.

Lay Low:

Nancy Sinatra and June Carter apparently had a love child when we weren’t looking.  If her song writing and soothing voice doesn’t get you, her snake charming personality will.  Doesn’t matter if she’s in front of a massive crowd, or singing for 5 people in a shack smack dab in the middle of Reykjavik, she is definitely someone you want to experience while at the festival.  She has a slew of new songs, and I’m excited to hear them.  You’re absolutely NOT going to hate her.

Ok, I’ve got to stop, I promised myself only 10.  But it was a tough choice as there are plenty of other acts worthy of mention.  Dikta, Tilbury, Pétur Ben, Moses Hightower, Mammut, Momentum, Hudson Wayne etc..etc… Nini Wilson is also a band you should look out for.  I’m not going to spoil it, but they consist of members from other well known Icelandic bands.

I’m going to be blogging every morning after the festival, and I hope to see you up there.

3rd Airwaves announcement

What a loverly thing to wake up to. A new email from Airwaves announcing more 30 more bands for the festival of which 22 are Icelandic. Ólöf Arnalds, Retro Stefson, Amiina, Moses Hightower, Apparat Organ Quartet, Árstíðir, Kiriyama Family, Skúli Sverrisson, Hermigervill, Captain Fufanu, Sign, Stafrænn Hákon, Leaves, Endless Dark, Nóra, 1860, Dimma, Auxpan, Þórir Georg, Emmsjé Gauti, Kjurr and Nini Wilson.

I have been rather busy with a move, and now an injury, but I truly am hoping in the upcoming week I can get a handle on the massive amount of write ups I need to cover. So stay tuned, and until then, you can read my write ups on FM Belfast, Apparat Organ Quartet, and of course there are more write ups on my Iceland Airwaves page.

Apparat Organ Quartet

AOQ

Apparat Organ Quartet, AOQ, began in 1999 and has, or does now, consist of Hörður Bragason, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Músikvatur, Úlfur Eldjárn and Þorvaldur Gröndal who was later replaced by HAM drummer Arnar Geir Ómarsson.  As of 2012, Jóhann Jóhannsson left AOQ to focus on his other projects.

Trying to regurgitate their entire history from Wiki, or their website would be a disservice, as their website is extremely entertaining so I’ll leave that to you; and just go on about their albums and live gigs.  AOQ is always an interesting band to see live. They pride themselves on not sequencing the music, and their instruments are a hodge-podge of keyboards, organs, vocoders, and synthesizers, all tweaked and modified to bring the audience and listener unique beat-heavy dance and rock pieces.

My first live experience with AOQ was unplanned. I was at NASA early to ensure my sweet spot for a band I can’t even remember that was playing after them. The lights dimmed and the stage came alive with this massive bulk of machinery and wires cranking out these incredibly forceful soundwaves of synthesized vocals, organs tweaked improper, keyboards, and I swear to God there was a cow bell. The crowd, obviously familiar with them went nuts, jumping up and down, freaking out, and displaying the bands symbol, the triangle. Lift both hands above your head, put your thumbs together in a straight line, then touch your index fingers together, making the triangle. Obviously the show left it’s impression, as I remember AOQ, but not the band I was really there to see.

AOQ

Their first album came out around 2002. The self titled album is built like an album should be, very easy to listen to and fluid. It starts off with a lot of energy, then you coast gleefully through the middle engaging the listener with ups and downs, coming to a very spacey, relaxing end. The album took almost 3 years of discovery and research for the band, and according to the band’s website, it took so long to create as it was undiscovered territory. Not many organ quartets are out there, add that to their naturally creative nature, and obsession with customizing old and new things alike,  and you have a lot of untraveled space to fly through.  My favorite tracks on the album are The Anguish of Space Time and Stereo rock and roll.

Their second full length, Pólýfónía, has the same upbeat vibe, and more pop-ish tracks such as 123 Forever as well as more rock-ish tracks like Cargo Frakt. At Airwaves 2012, instead of a bulk of instruments taking up the center of the stage, Apparat added 4 very new, very shiny instruments. A quartet of women:

Apparat Organ Quartet play at Harpa during Iceland Airwaves 2012

They first appeared on the track Konami and then appeared live, for everyone to see. The concert this time was at Harpa, a much larger venue, which the band filled with an epic light show, as well as these lovely ladies.  AOQ proved again that they know how to put on an amazing show.

The last thing I want to mention is their Pólýfónía Remixes album, with artists such as FM Belfast and Bloodgroup.  Definitely worth a listen, Fm Belfast’s remix of Konami, is my favorite track on the album.

I would definitely check out their website, they are on Facebook, and of course, their albums are all on Gogoyoko. Definitely unique, energetic, and worthwhile. And now, for their 4 questions:

1. What is your favorite off-venue Airwaves joint to jam at? I think we did our first Airwaves off venue gig this year at KEX and it was quite nice. They had delicious soup.
2. If you combine all of your favorite colors (for you, add your bandmates if you would), what do you get? A whiter shade of pale
3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin? DJ Musician, DJ Sexbomb and DJ Flugvél og geimskip
4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? A steam engine robot playing Jump by Van Halen

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Iceland Airwaves 2016

1860 Amiina Apparat Organ Quartet AMFJ
Bloodgroup Dj. flugvél og geimskip FM Belfast For a Minor Reflection
Futuregrapher In the Company of Men John Grant Jónas Sen
Kimono Knife fights Lay Low Legend
MAMMÚT Momentum Ojba Rasta Oyama
Pétur Ben Sin Fang Snorri Helgason Sudden Weather Change
Þorvaldur Þór Þorvaldsson(Doddi) Vigri