Happy Friday. Here’s the Icelandic king of pop performing at the crazy music festival that happens every year in the Westman Island in the south of Iceland. I’m missing Iceland something terrible this week, and belting out Páll’s songs as I drive through Nashville makes it just a little better. Enjoy.
I was strolling up Laugavegur a few weeks ago, enjoying the summer hubub and lazily passing the day wandering, when I passed by Myndra having an informal performance. I sat down and listened for a half an hour. If you’ve never heard of them, check out their music. And always stop for street performances, because you never know what you may have stumbled upon. [These shots are 35mm taken with a disposable film camera]
I haven’t done a Tónlist Tuesday post in a while, and this will be my 200th post on this blog, so let’s do something big!…..Páll Óskar: Iceland’s Prince of Pop. You Europeans may be familiar with (or even devoted fans of) this flamboyant singer, but I had never even heard of Eurovision before leaving the States, let alone Iceland’s oft-sequin-bedecked star. The first video below shows Páll in a sequined lopa peysa (the signature Icelandic wool sweater) performing at the crazy party/festival that takes place every year on the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar). And in light of today’s #AskThicke madness reminding us how gross Robin Thicke is, it’s refreshing to watch Páll show the world how over-the-top-glam-pop is done. So, without further ado, dance!
band remedy for excess seriousness should be taken regularly. It is recommended to apply this treatment alongside several silly dances.
FM Belfast just released their new video for “Brighter Days,” (the title track off their new album) and if you can watch it without dancing, your soul is dark indeed. The student bar at my university had these guys play for a recent end-of-finals party, and they are as silly and fantastic in person as they are in the video. If you want to see more of them, I highly recommend Backyard , a documentary about the Icelandic music scene that captures the backyard concert that Árni Rúnar (a amember of the band) held to record music by a few bands from Iceland’s eclectic and collaborative music scene.
Sin Fang is the solo project of “Iceland’s new king of lo-fi layered lushness,” Sindri Már Sigfússon. If you like his solo work, check out his work in Seabear. His most recent album, Flowers, is a “beautiful collection of tracks, occasionally soaring in an ethereal soundscape, sometimes jangling around with rock sensibilities, but always grounded with thoughtful lyricism. It’s catchy and sweet, but powerful. There’s an optimism present that illuminates folk undertones and electronic flourishes—as the genre is frequently referred to as ‘folktronica.'” (quote via)
Tónlist Tuesday: Iceland is chock full of fantastic bands in every genre. I’ve posted about a few of them before, but in a more organized effort to share this marvelous music with you, I’ll be posting about a new Icelandic band
every most Tuesdays (Tónlist is the Icelandic word for music). I’d really appreciate your feedback on the bands I share and any suggestions for upcoming features. And, as always, thanks for reading and sharing my posts.
Back in March, a few classmates and I went to see Ragnheiður, the first Icelandic opera ever to be staged in Harpa. It tells the story of a young woman in 16th century Iceland who falls in love with her handsome young tutor, a romance destined for tragedy. Ragnheiður was created by composer Gunnar Þórðarson and librettist Friðrik Erlingsson. I have only a basic understanding of opera, but I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. The music was really beautiful, and the minimalist set was quite impressive.
Snorri Helgason writes soft, folky songs perfect for rainy days or for afternoons spent quietly sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea in comfy sweater while northern sunshine pours in the window. I started listening to his music before I moved to Reykjavik, but every time I plan to go to one of his shows here in the city, something else comes up. Fingers crossed this changes tonight. Snorri and Hymnalaya are playing at Gamli Gaukurinn, a music venue and bar near my flat.
Tónlist Tuesday is a regularly scheduled opportunity for me to share some of my favorite Icelandic bands with you. The Icelandic music scene is diverse and vibrant, and there’s always more to discover. Enjoy!
My photos of Malo Adeux‘s recent show at Dillon Whiskey Bar in downtown Reykjavik didn’t turn out, but I managed to snap this snazzy shot of a bunch of Medievalists hanging out in an Icelandic bar drinking and listening to songs in Breton. (35mm taken with my Canon Rebel SLR)
So, this is a day late, but to make up for that, I’ve decided to share the music of Hymnalaya: my favorite Icelandic band, no contest. Hymnalaya is like Iceland: beautiful in their paradoxes. They have a huge band with big instruments, but make a intensely quiet sound. As their songs crescendo, the volume seems to get wider instead of higher, to swell without getting any louder. They make a masterful use of the empty spaces in songs, filling them with soft percussion that adds a calming effect, like the peace that comes from the background sound of waves rolling in and out on a cold beach.
Their lyrics are simply constructed and easily understood but are also laden with a second level of meaning that seems to grow every time I listen to their album. There is a depth and perhaps even a sadness to their songs, but still the music leaves you feeling hopeful, smiling, and musing on beautiful things. In short, this seems be a group whose talents lie not in just technical execution, but in a true understanding of truth, beauty, and hope.
And they hold a special place in my Iceland experience. During my first week in Reykjavik, a few friends insisted that I come along to Cafe Rosenberg to see this great band they had discovered on Culture Night a few days earlier. As it happened, the whole band (a dozen + talented musicians) couldn’t make the show, so Einar and Þórdís played a few songs from their side project, Luckyhymnist. I was mesmerized by their sweet vocals and quiet but joyful sound.
While enjoying their songs, I realized by the lyrics that they were Christians, so afterwards I asked them where they attended church in the area. That’s how I started going to the International Service at Fíladelfía, which has been one of the biggest blessings of my time here so far. Of course, since then, I’ve seen Hymnalaya play every chance I get, and each time I find my “Mind Blown” by the unique beauty of their music.
These photos are 35mm film shots I took at their recent show at Cafe Rosenberg (a great music venue for those of you visiting town).
Get ready to dance….then rock out….then chill….then dance again! Retro Stefson is an exuberant group of young Icelandic musicians making a deliciously eclectic music that crosses continents, eludes genres, and delights the globally inclined ear with lyrics in Icelandic, English, French, and Portuguese. Several members of the band, who grew up together, started playing together in middle school after making music for a talent show.
Retro Stefson puts on a fantastic live show. I saw them twice off-venue at Iceland Airwaves, and both times they had the audience jumping around, head-banging, then jumping around again. To see more of this fun band, you should take a look at the documentary, “Backyard.” A musician decided to invite several bands and his neighbors to his backyard, where the bands recorded some great live tracks. It’s a quiet, but engrossing look at the style-diverse but close knit community of musicians in Reykjavik.
I love the video for “Glow” because all of the locations are in downtown (and nearby) Reykjavik, right around where I live. (And brothers Unnsteinn and Logi Stefánsson are adorable on their tandem bike.)