Unlike past years, Iceland Airwaves will be in two cities this year, Reykjavik and Akureyri giving festival goers a chance to see more of the island, and from the looks of it, bringing more Icelandic bands from all over together to play. You can now look at the schedule here. And here are my tips to make the festival more enjoyable.
I will be photographing the festival this year and if you follow my Facebook page you view at your leisure. You can see photos from Airwaves past here.
218 bands have been announced so far of which 162 are Icelandic. I make this page as a quick reference and it’s a good thing to bookmark while you’re at the festival. There will be times where your plans may not come to fruition and you can look at the app, find a band you’ve never heard of for plan B, and use the quick reference here to see if you dig it.
With Icelandic bands it can always be hard to categorize their music styles as one of the greatest things about them is their ability to snag and grab their favorite things from all over the musical spectrum and make it work for them. So these lists are just general nods in the direction you may be looking for, for example, the Dance table, they sit right on the edge of electronic and dance pop/rock and beats. But I tried to focus on the prominence of a lead singer and the beats of the bulk of their songs in deciding which side to place them.
I’ve also made a table of just Möller Records and Thule Records artists as they have quite the strong presence this year. Both of these record labels have continually brought amazing electronic acts out of the Icelandic woodwork for years and I’m really stoked to visit their stage and get my fill of their collective music.
Categorizing some bands can be extremely difficult as they run borders are freely through genres, so if you feel a band needs to be moved into a different category let me know and I’ll change it.
And, the final announcement is out. Almost 230 bands will be at Iceland Airwaves 2015, and while we’ll definitely miss Björk and Mammút, The Airwaves staff have outdone themselves with the roster this year. This is the most bands I have seen yet, 155 of the 230 bands are Icelandic, and they span the spectrum of every genre. Here is the new announcement, Directed, edited and created by the wonderful Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir, Sin Fang once again is credited with the music, and… Now we all know who Gangly is.
Also announced for this year is a festival within a festival. On Sunday, the final night of the festival,the mini-festival called Extreme Chill will happen at the Vodafone Hall. One last hurrah and “laid back” night of music, featuring Hot Chip, Introbeats, dj. flugvél og geimskip, Agent Fresco, Emmsjé Gauti, Sleaford Mods, Úlfur Úlfur and FM Belfast. You can learn more about it here. It’s a fantastic idea, because if you have done Airwaves right, nothing will sound better than only having to go to one place to finish off in musical bliss.
As I did for 2014 and 2013, I’ve listed all of the Icelandic bands playing into loosely divided into genres on this page. Clicking on their name will open a new tab with the Iceland Airwaves info page for that artist, which includes Soundcloud, Social media links, and a short bio.
This list is just the Icelandic bands playing, if you want to see the full line-up go to the Iceland Airwaves Line-up page.
You can listen to all the bands playing this year via Iceland Airwaves Spotify playlist here:
And here are the previous video announcements:
Video four was Directed, produced, and shot by Máni M Sigfússon, starring Kælan Mikla, with music by Sin Fang:
Video three was produced by Les Frères Stefson, directed and written by, Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson And the banker was Haraldur Ari Stefánsson:
Video two with Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson drumming away as band names float across the screen:
First announcement with Dj. Flugvél og Geimski:
I would suggest getting your tickets sooner than later, especially if you are planning on doing a package you’ll have more hotel options in the beginning now than you will in a month. Typically the festival sells out, but with the line up looking as good as it does this year, I would imagine it will sell out sooner than later. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of “you snooze, you lose”
If you want to see what the past has been like, here is a link to all my Iceland Airwaves related posts. And here is the link to the Iceland Airwaves Flickr page if you want to see just how fun this festival really is.
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, TheRiver. 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.
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.
Now for the recap on Airwaves, Yes initially I was going to do a day by day, yes I was ambitious. No, after day 1, it didn’t happen. So, I am going to do a couple blog posts on stuff that was new to me, and stuff I dug.
To start off, Kudos to the Iceland Airwaves staff and crew. This was the smoothest I’ve seen it run, and I really appreciate how much help they are, even to us small potatoes that dig music and blog about it out of fun and not as our careers. So, thank you guys for another great year.
As with all 5 years that I’ve attended, there was good, and there was notsogood. The high points out numbered the rare low points and it’s easy to call this my favorite music festival of the year.
One of the highlights was the off-venue schedule being added to the app. It really made picking a band during the middle of the day a lot easier, and if the off-venue performance you wanted was too crowded, it was easy to pick something else. And this year that became more important than in the past, as it seemed the off venues were packed almost all the time, and quick changes of plans were necessary.
DJ. flugvél og geimskip
My goal was to focus on Icelandic bands that I had not heard before, I relied heavily on the suggestions other Icelandic musicians and friends, and regardless of their genre I made an attempt to see them play. I did make an exception to my rule in order to see Zola Jesus, FM Belfast, and John Grant. But all the other bands on my schedule were Icelandic, and/or bands I had seen once or twice. And with over 200 of them rarely did I have a time where I couldn’t find something to see.
Top 3 new bands I had not seen before were Boogie Trouble, Oyama, and Hudson Wayne. Oyama was on my list based on the blog I did about them, and Boogie trouble was a must see, as a lot of Icelandic friends and musicians recommended I not miss their gig.
Boogie Trouble at Hressó
Boogie trouble’s upbeat music came in second only to their lead singers energy and charisma. She was laughing, dancing around the place, and the entire band jammed away at both gigs I attended. Two entirely different crowds for those shows, and yet the band created the same party like atmosphere in both situations. They played the first day I was in town at Lucky Records, and again at Hressó near the end of the festival. Well worth the recommends they received, and their cover of Britney Spear’s Toxic is not to be missed.
While so called “shoe-gazing” music isn’t typically my jam, I was excited to see Oyama, as I like the music I’ve heard and was interested to see how their live show would turn out. I also saw Oyama twice, once in front of the 12 Tónar shop at Harpa, and once at the Amsterdam bar the last night of Airwaves.
Oyama rockin the walls of Harpa
The off-venue gig at Harpa turned scandalous, as the band was just too wild and crazy for the stone cold walls, and as their music filled the event hall, it breached the serenity of the Ólafur Arnalds Symphony experience, causing a panicked man to whisper pleas into Úlfur’s ear to stop briefly to allow the symphony to end in peace. Ok, not that dramatic, but the band did have to stop briefly, you can read more about it here.
Oyama at Amsterdam
At both sets the band played energetically and together, the smaller set at Harpa was definitely more mellow than the on-venue set at Amsterdam. And at the Amsterdam set I was really impressed with Júlía, who obviously was having issues with her voice, and yet it came out strong, non-wavering, and almost pitch perfect the entire set. the Amsterdam set was more rowdy, and there was nothing shoe-gazing about the guitar and bass trio break-down during one of their first few songs. I highly enjoyed the new tracks they premiered during their set.
Hudson Wayne at Iðnó
Hudson Wayne gets a golden star as being one of the only bands I’ve ever heard at Iðnó where I thought the sound quality was great. They were so spot on it would be hard to believe they were Icelanders and not from the Mid Western part of the U.S. They appeared to be having almost more fun than the audience. So, aside from the over-priced beer at Iðnó, I stayed the entire set and really enjoyed myself. Was very glad to finally hear them play.
Pétur Ben at KEX
I’ve seen Pétur Ben perform before, but not the newer darker catalog he has, and not with a full band. So it was great to make it to Kex and hear him play full on. Even though the new album is quite a bit darker, the music came off strong and I really dug the new live tracks.
Once again, Kex Hostel had KEXP hanging around, doing live streams of the music during the entire festival. If you want to hear the live sets they recorded, I suggest heading over here to give them a listen. They all work incredibly hard every year exposing new acts and bringing music from Iceland to the United States.
Sadly, the one set of new artists that turned out not so well was the Samaris show at Gamli Bio. There were massive tech issues from the beginning, and the band looked really out of sorts and discombobulated in their performance. I wish I could have seen them at another gig, as I was really excited to catch their act. So until I do see them again, I am holding off judgement on their live act.
Nini Wilson at Harpa
Last but not least by any means, another great new band was Nini Wilson. Comprised of Örn Ingi Ágústsson from Seabear on guitar, Árni Vilhjálmsson of FM Belfast doing vocals and guitar, and Björn Stefánsson on drums. Their music was made public only days before the festival, and yet there still was a near full venue waiting to hear what they had to offer. After taking a moment to relax via a bottle of Lavender oil, which they passed around for the crowd to inhale, Nini Wilson began a very tight set of Folk-ish rock, moving through the set entertaining themselves and the audience with quips about being naked, not being naked and of course, a few rock guitar solos intermixed. Very entertaining and I wish the set had been longer as it was one of the more enjoyable ones of the festival. Can’t wait to hear what else they have in store.
You can click any picture above to see my entire photo set from Airwaves this year.
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:
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:
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
Alas, I am still a day away from having an actual computer to work with, moving is such bliss and the like. But I wanted to take a moment and share with you an independent music festival that is happening this weekend in Reykjavik, May 24-26. The Reykjavik music mess is going on, and if you’re around the Island I would suggest checking it out. The gigs will be happening at the Kex Hostel, and Volta.
There are a lot of great bands that will be playing, a few that I’ve posted blogs on such as MAMMÚT and Oyama. And other great bands like Sykur, Bloodgroup, Muck and Just Another Snake Cult. Here is the full line up:
DZ DEATHRAYS (AUS)
GOOD MOON DEER
JUST ANOTHER SNAKE CULT
WITHERED HAND (UK)
Their website has a playlist where you can hear the bands, which you should go listen to even if you can’t make the festival. And if you do go, let us know how it went.
I’ve never gotten used to the term shoe-gaze pop. As this type of music makes me feel more like watching a kaleidoscope projector on my ceiling nestled in my over-sized beanbag than staring at my shoes. Either way Oyama’s album, “I wanna” makes you just want to kick back and float away while gazing at ceilings, shoes, or just into space. Great beats that keep your attention from straying while vocals float over the top grabbing you and bringing you up there with them. One of my favorite tracks on the album is Sometimes:
A lot of the album reminds me of a very young Spaceman 3/Spiritualized, especially the track Sometimes. Oyama is excellent at producing harmonized vocals that drift over a very spacey set of instruments without sounding too washed out. They have a great way of crossing over and mixing their male and female vocal set to create not so much a duet, but a singular stream of interchangeable notes, most noticed on Wasted (Dinosaur).
Oyama will be at Airwaves again in 2013. I suggest you check them out. To keep up to date with the band, their tumblr is here, their Facebook here, and of course you can find them on Gogoyoko. Júlía and Berger were extremely kind and went to great detail in their answers to my four questions, and here they are:
1. What is your favorite off-venue Airwaves, or Icelandic joint to jam at?
Júlía: Kex hostel and Stúdentakjallarinn fed us good food, plus they are out-of-control trendy places that make anyone who enters (= me) seem hip just by existing within that context (Stúdentakjallarinn has an entire wall of live vegetation).
Bergur: The whole atmosphere surrounding the off-venue program of Iceland Airwaves is fascinating. I love how unformal they all are, really nice plug and play concerts, preferably at venues like Bíó Paradís, Bar 11 or Kex Hostel. Stúdentakjallarinn is also very good, a new venue that actually feeds bands that perform there!
2. If you combine all of your favorite colors what do you get?
Júlía: I keep a running list of all my favorite colors with me (on my phone) at all times. I wish I were making this up. The list goes: eggplant, egg yolk, duck egg, neon green, hunter green, salmon, light pink, lilac, peridot, pale blue, royal blue, navy, mauve, cream, oatmeal, light grey, bright yellow, true red, red orange, burgundy, gold, silver
Bergur: I like most colors that relate to autumn; brown, mustard-brown, moss-green, and then some black and white… They all look good together in layers, but super-mundane if you’d mix them together.
3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin?
Júlía: I’m gonna say The Heavy Experience, Nolo and Samaris. Samaris are pretty well known already but fuck it, I just wanna namedrop all my biggest favesies.
4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song?
Júlía: I’m a lemur playing Krawtwerk’s Computer Love Bergur: A Koalabear playing bass on Darondo´s “Didnt I”