Tag Archives: Icelandic music

FM Belfast – Island Broadcast review

FM belfast is by far my favorite dance band to see live.  I’ve jumped up and down and picked confetti out of my hair for over 8 years watching this super-group of musicians and they’ve never let down.  Their 4th album, “Island Broadcast,” delivers that party feel and has quickly become my second favorite album of theirs, only slightly behind “How to make friends.”

The beats on the album are much more energized and dance-able than “Brighter days,” but there is a strong undertow of reality with the lyrics, creating a unique contrast that solidifies the album.  Each song on the album is it’s own story of growing old but not growing up, holding your head above water and encouraging others to do the same, and spending what little time we have on this rock enjoying where you are and what you have.

While I could go through and describe what I felt track by track, I’d rather just highlight a few of my favorites and post videos so you can make up your own mind.  The only official video I could find for songs on the album is the album opener “All My Power.”  A back and forth of two folks, one who feels guilty, the other the reason why:

My favorite track on the album by far is “The Game”

“You’re so pretty” began as a short story written by Lóa about aging restlessness.

And “Fearless Youth” was written by  Örvar Smárason and is a tribute to youth and friends of the past.

I asked Lóa a few questions and she was nice enough to answer, here they be:

  1. As a whole, the music on the album is a lot more lively than on Brighter Days, and yet  the lyrics are some of the most pensive and serious out of your albums.  Was this contrast intentional?

The contrast was not intentional no, unless Árni meant it to be so and forgot to tell me. I don’t know why the album is more lively. Maybe because we finally realize that we have nothing to lose. The track Strobe for instance is just a rave mantra to dance to. It’s not necessarily a logical track to be on the album but I don’t care about things like that anymore. Trying to do what you think people want you to do is futile.

  1. Throughout the album, there is a “them” that you seem to rally against.  Is there a single entity that is “them”, or are they different song for song?

“Them and they” usually means some force or people who are more powerful than you and control something in your life or want to control you. It’s not about anyone in particular, it’s more about trying to stay sane in our strange world.

  1. The voices in my head really appreciated “Agent” as they feel it is their rallying cry for working together to make me resemble somewhat of a normal human being? But for normal folks, who’s being encouraged in the song?

You and me are being encouraged. Because we feel like we are so powerless when in fact there are so many of us who feel the same way. I like to believe that most people are nice, if they weren’t the world wouldn’t function.  I’d also like to send my greetings to the voices in your head.

  1. How personal is this album to you?  There seems to be a lot of reflection of where the characters in the songs have been, where they are, and where they hope to be.

It’s personal on many levels. We write the lyrics together most of the time so it’s a bit of a puzzle and it means different things to us. For me I’m having a bit of a crisis of what I should do now. I don’t have a plan but for some reason I keep coming back to the idea of having chicken in a backyard and grow vegetables.

  1. In the Game, who are you taking the blame for, who has no shame?  And what is this bright light you speak of?

All of us take the blame for the people in power. The bright light is about hope and the weird need to believe in something or someone. For me it’s kind of a cry for a decent politician coming out of the woods to save us. I’m not a religious person and I’ve kind of lost hope in politics but there’s always a part of me that is hoping for some kind of female Che Guevara… ok this sound stupid but sincerity will do that to you.

Island Broadcast is available digitally, on vinyl, and on CD.  It’s available on Spotify, and if you want to purchase it any of your digital outlets should have it.  The vinyl and CD are available via their website.  Follow them on Facebook and and Instagram to be notified of touring dates and events.  You can also see the concert photos I’ve taken here:

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Sóley, Sin Fang, & Örvar Smárason at Bush Hall march 8th 2018

In 2017 Sóley, Sin Fang, & Örvar Smárason got together and decided to release one song a month for the entire year.  They ended the year with the vinyl, “Team Dreams,” which you can listen to here, and a performance at Sigur Rós’s Norður og Niður festival in Reykjavik.  Us that were not able attend were treated with a great New Year’s gift, as they announced they would be touring around Europe.  I was lucky enough to photograph the concert at Bush Hall in Shepard’s Bush London.

Combining three brilliant musicians can go all sorts of ways, but in typical Iceland fashion their uniqueness blended well, with obvious positive chemistry between all three.  They were slightly nervous as this was the first concert of the tour and only the second time they had played together, and while they kept mentioning this nervousness, it really didn’t show.

If you don’t want to read my babble you can click here to just go to the pics.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite characteristics of Iceland musicians are their ability to remove the 4th wall.  And these three lived up to and surpassed that theory from the absolute beginning charming the audience with jokes, ambitions, and conversation.

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They supported themselves, each artists doing a 20 minute solo set before all joining on stage for the main event.  I had not seen Smárason’s solo material so I was pleased with this surprise.  After briefly chatting with the crowd as he set up apologized as he wasn’t going to chat through his set of ecclectic beats, and creative use of microphones.  He then performed 20 minutes of his new material giving us a preview of his first solo album, “light is liquid” which will be released via Morr Music on May 18th, check out his Facebook page for more details.

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Sin Fang was next, starting off with piano and eventually moving over to guitar a broad span of his catalog.  I’ve been watching Sin Fang since the days of duct taped microphone nests, and he never disappoints.  He even covered “teenage Spaceship” by Smog, which while the audience didn’t seem to know who Smog is, made me really happy.

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After a brief intermission, Sóley came to the stage and proceeded to sing a good amount of material.  She told us stories of chocolate spoons being used to stir things, and mentioned that she would be the queen of the Theremin by next year, I’m holding her to that.

When the trio came on stage they were accompanied by Gylfi Sigurðsson of Retro Stefson fame.  I unfortunately didn’t get a good shot of him, but you can kind of see him in the photo below:

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There is still time to catch them on tour with 5 shows remaining, and I suggest you do,  I certainly wasn’t disappointed and doubt you will be either.  You can find out more about the tour dates, by following them on their individual Facebook pages and Instagram.

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Taste of Iceland, Boston 2018

It’s March, and that means it is time for another Taste of Iceland.  The cultural event that brings things such as Architecture & Design, Literature, Film, Food, and of course, Music from Iceland to different spots around the globe.  This year’s Boston event is March 8th through the 10th, with a Cocktail pre-game on the 7th at Drink.

As this is a music blog I’m going to touch on the music portion of the event, but you can go here for the complete schedule of events, including an Icelandic food menu at Townsman, a special cocktail menu at Beat Brasserie, an exhibit on Iceland’s Design and Architectual scene at the BSA Space, and a short film festival at the Brattle Theatre.

The annual Reykjavik calling concert typically consists of both local and Icelandic musicians.  Each performing a set of material, and sometimes if you’re lucky they will combine efforts for a big finale.  This year Taste of Iceland returns to the Paradise Rock club with JFDR and Sturla Atlas on the Iceland team, and Air traffic Controller for Boston.

JFDR is Jófríður Ákadóttir.  To call her an Icelandic music veteran seems a bit shallow as  not only is she half of the legendary Pascal Pinon, but part of Samaris and Gangly two bands that have really skyrocketed in popularity recently.  She tours a lot and at Iceland Airwaves she is always playing somewhere on any given day making her one of the hardest working musicians out there in my opinion.  Ákadóttir’s music spans genres, complex beats weaving in and out of darkness,  infused with jazz, ambient landscapes, soulful poetry and classical music.

While I love her new album “Brazil” as well as her music videos, nothing quite beats seeing her live.  No matter which bands I’ve seen her in, the emotion and energy she puts into performing entirely fills the space and will leave you in awe.

Sturla Atlas is part of a hip-hop-trip-hop-rap collective in Iceland named the 101 boys.  (101 is the Reykjavik zip code.)  hip-hop heavy, Sturla Atlas brings singing and catchy choruses to his music as well.  Last year Sturla Atlas opened for Justin Bieber up in Iceland at what was slated one of the largest, if not the largest concert in Iceland’s history.

And from Boston, Air Traffic Controller will be on stage.  The name comes when Dave Munro, the lead, would send back demos of his music while serving in the navy.  Known for bringing energy to live gigs, they also have a great music video that was released last year:

These concerts are always fun, and the bands tend to interact and join in on the party with the crowds.  It’s a great way to learn about new bands hear new sounds.  I do suggest you get there earlier than later as I’ve yet been to one that wasn’t booked at capacity and as it’s free, it’s first come first serve.

So get out and enjoy a little Icelandic culture for the week, it is always worth the effort.

 

 

Day 2 of Iceland Airwaves

Another great day full of music.  I wanted to quickly tell you about the tour we took yesterday.  I had recommended it as it was something new and so I figured I should go as well, I’m glad I did as it was well worth the time and money, even for someone who has been coming to Iceland regularly for almost a decade and half.

On tour with Ívar is a 3 hour walking tour that begins at Lucky Records.  As you wind through the city of Reykjavik you meander down streets and visit places hidden and off the beaten path.  You learn not only learn where a lot of famous musicians and artists began, but you get to see where the scene is currently developing.  You learn about streets, venues, buildings, new places to go, and old favorites of the city.  As a long time visitor here I was surprised that I may change some of my go-to places in order to return to businesses we visited on the tour.  I highly recommend the tour to veteran visitors as well as newbies.

Day 2 was a full night, We started off with a small solo set from former kimono front-woman Alison Macneil (Dame Judy Wench) and ventured to Hard Rock cafe for a high energy Tófa set.  Then to Gamla bíó for most of the night where we saw Hatari, Grísalappalísa, and For a Minor Reflection.  Then we crossed over to Þjóðleikhúsið, the National theatre of Iceland, to catch a few songs from the legendary Megas.

Enough babble I s’pose, here are the pics:

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Now, on to day 3…

Ásgeir at the Sinclaire 9/30/2017

Friday night we headed out for the Ásgeir gig at the Sinclaire in Cambridge, MA. I had not heard the opener, Tusks, and was very pleasantly surprised.  You can see all the photos over at my Facebook page by clicking the one below:

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all of my Icelandic concert photos will begin appearing on the RagnaarBastiaan FB page including the upcoming Iceland Airwaves, so if you’re so inclined, like the page and follow along.

Boogie Trouble – Í Bænum

Iceland is one of the most musically diverse countries in the world.  You can find everything and anything your heart desires so it’s no surprise to find a full-fledged Disco band in 2016.  Disco isn’t all that strange for Iceland, Þórir Baldursson was rather successful in the 70’s working with Donna Summer during the global disco hay-day, and I’m pretty sure there are closets and caves with hidden disco balls and way too tight disco pants all over the island.

Klara Arnalds, Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi, Sunna Karen Einarsdóttir, Sindri Freyr Steinsson, Arnar Birgiss and Sigurður Tómas Guðmundsson are all Boogie trouble.  I first saw them a few years ago at Iceland Airwaves, their live gigs are more parties than gigs and it only took a short time before they became local favorites.  I’ve written about them before And this review is about their highly anticipated new album Í Bænum.

Quite frankly,  Í Bænum is the perfect rump shaking album for summer.  There are layers of horns, percussion, strings and a good share of bwap-bwap guitars all wrapped around a solid dancing beat that just doesn’t quit.  Klara Arnald’s voice is perfect for this style of music, strong enough to rival the brass yet nimble while it dances in between the other musical players, such as on the title track:

My second favorite track on the album, “Gleymmér ey.” opens with almost a disco-80’s fusion type of sound before Arnalds voice comes to us in a lower pitch.  The beat remains a highly energetic roll of percussion reminiscent of a stampede of horses rolling over the countryside.

I wasn’t going to translate any songs as my Icelandic is limited to colors, time, and asking where the bar is.  But  “Moldun” has become my favorite track on the album because when you listen to it, it basically translates itself.  It’s fairly obvious that the song is about a disco space cowboy who has landed on a strange planet in search of his beloved disco ball which has gone missing.  Feeling all alone and run out of town for being a strange disco space cowboy, he finally finds the disco ball in rafters of an old Icelandic countryside church shining down on many disco cowpeople grooving away.  I mean, I could be wrong but I’m 99.2% sure I’m correct:

All in all this album will make you dance.  It has become a necessary album on our party playlist,  and DJ sets.  Even my local bar has begun playing a few tracks off of it to keep the night interesting.   You can listen to the entire album and purchase it here on Bandcamp, and I highly suggest you follow them on Facebook.

 

 

 

Talking about the weather

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As the digital format is now available globally, I wanted to repost my review, written almost a year ago to date.

It seems that when an artist matures they feel the need to leave their old style and branch out into the new.  This can be discouraging to some listeners, and exciting for others.  On Lay Low’s new album, Talking about the weather, the new, slightly more complex sound chooses to embrace the past and bring it along instead of dismissing it entirely.  The more I listen to this album, the more I appreciate it, and it definitely is the best I’ve heard so far in 2014.

Lay Low, Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, has been in the Icelandic music scene for almost a decade now.  She’s in the famous Benny Crespo’s gang, and she has been putting out solo albums since 2006.  Recently, she charmed the socks of the interwebs by doing a cozy live stream concert from the living room of her home.  I’ve said before that she has an ability to make any size crowd feel at home, and even over the web she managed to make the listener feel as if they were hanging in her living room.

I’ve compared her previous albums to birth-children of June Carter and Nancy Sinatra.  And they are all excellent lo-fi country-esq masterpieces.  And while different than the others, the new album maintains the quality a Lay Low fan would expect.  Each song is a single on it’s own, but is made greater with it’s accompanying album mates.

Talking about the weather starts out very classic, her voice strongly leading us into a familiar Lay Low guitar beat.  But then the listener is quickly introduced to the new gang of instruments and complexities. The vocals become more full, with stronger backing, the perfect addition to her folk/guitar vibe creating this bluesy feeling.  It’s the perfect introduction to the hybrid of styles the listener will hear the rest of the album.

Gently, has a very strong 90’s Cardigan feel, and just as the song speaks of rolling down the street, the song is so smooth one gets a sense of smoothly rolling along.  In the dead of winter reminded me so much of 70’s Marianne Faithful that after finishing the Talking about the weather the first time I had to revisit my Faithful catalog.

Like laying on a tube floating down a gentle river beer in hand, sun above -the album rolls along peacefully.  In One of those nights, she sings: “I try to keep my emotions from climbing up high, but there’s something in that song.”  Whether she meant it as a metaphor for love, or pertaining to an actual song, it’s hard not to be taken over with a calm, happy emotion when listening to this album, each and every song.

Currently, the album is available from her website in CD or Vinyl format, and is now available in digital format all over the place.  You can follow Lay Low on her facebook page, hear more of her stuff on Soundcloud.