Tag Archives: Icelandic music

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.

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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.

Gangly

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UPDATE::

As you most likely came here after viewing the new Iceland Airwaves final announcement video, I thought I would update this post.  It’s now obviously what great talent lies behind Gangly, and after the positive reviews I received from their LungA gig earlier this summer, I am more than excited to see these three artists perform together on stage.  The band is working on new material as we speak, so I would highly suggest following them on Facebook for further updates.

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2014 ended shrouded in mystery as a new song seemed to appear out of thin air.  A link to Gangly, “Fuck with someone else” appeared in one of the Grapeviner’s inbox, no description, no details, just a link to a Youtube video.

The vocals are smooth and haunting, backed by an intense but minimal Massive attack-esque beat which combined with the trippy animation makes for quite the haunting track. Sure it’s a bit NSFW but the overall composition is smooth and dark and you hardly realize what the the lyrics are going on about.  It has become one of my favorite tracks of 2014, by the music alone.

In defense of my love for Icelandic music, I’ve been quoted as saying Icelanders make music fun.  They are willing to try new things, laugh off the failures and embrace the things that they themselves dig the most.  This has created an incredibly diverse musical island, and while it’s diverse, they tend to find a way to collaborate all that diversity into great sounding music.

This track is the personification of that theory.  A few musicians getting together, having fun, and trying something out.  Gangly is a collaboration of musicians that are quite successful by their own right, and they somehow got together and created this track just for the sake of creation.  Talking with one of them, even the element of becoming a mystery wasn’t completely planned out, but they are going with it because it’s fun.  This and the actual track definitely make it one of my favorite new songs of 2014.

There are more songs planned for the future, and you can follow their Facebook or Soundcloud pages for more info.

Readers choice, top 10 Icelandic bands

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:

Agent Fresco

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

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.

Reykjavik!

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.

Vigri

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.

 Legend

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.

Pascal Pinon

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.

Just another Snake Cult

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 Helgason

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:

Cell 7

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

Dj. flugvél og geimskip

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.

 

 

 

What about Bob

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.

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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.

GCHis 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.

And the bands keep coming for Airwaves ’14

10607889094_a598cfa7b3_oAnother 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.

I have a few hopeful Icelandic bands I am still holding out for such as Knife Fights, Ghostigital and Boogie trouble, but I am really enjoying the roster so far.

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.