This edition of Sound Sunday explores the diverse music scene of Iceland and offers free downloads from 15 different artists.
Iceland is a volcanic island located at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and European tectonic plates diverge. It is said to have inspired Tolkien to many of the characters in the Lord of the Rings and beyond. Since it didn’t become the movie set for Tolkien’s novels, the island is best known for its secluded nature, music, and — in recent history — its unorthodox approach to overcoming its devastating financial crisis.
Iceland has an incredibly active and diverse music scene. Each year in November, the Iceland Airwaves music festival attracts local and international artists for five intense days dedicated to celebrating music. This year’s SoundCloud sampler has no fewer than 168 tracks.
The island’s most famous exports are Björk and Sigur Rós.
In Iceland itself, however, this “weird music” is not the mainstream!
Iceland’s music scene is diverse. This edition of Sound Sunday provides a sneak peek.
Single: Anna Hlin – Beautiful Rose
Genre: pop, soul
From her Facebook page: “Runner up Icelandic Idol, singer songwriter and muse to some.. ;) I breathe music.”
EP: Ásgeir – The Toe Rag Acoustic Sessions
Genre: alternative, indie, folk, pop, synth-pop
From his Bandcamp profile: “At only 21 years of age, Ásgeir has already released Iceland’s biggest ever selling debut album by a domestic artist, won 4 Icelandic Music Awards and been nominated for the prestigious Nordic Music Prize.”
EP: Ourlives – Out Of Place
Genre: indie, pop, rock
From their NoiseTrade profile: “Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, the music [Ourlives] make is a dramatic crossover hybrid of melodic intelligent progressive rock and warm powerful emotional pop. They are not a band afraid to play with the warmth of old-school guitars, with the analogue dust of keyboards, with the power of silence, or the strength that can be found in their harmonious vocals. Neither are they a band afraid of soothing, soaring melodies, of emotional choruses, and the idea that less is often so much more. The foursome are fusing their ambitious ideas together to produce a sound that’s as potentially epic as their Icelandic landscape and they do this without ever losing sight of the power and strength of pop and the art of keeping it simple.”
EP: Axel Thor – Red Fox
Genre: indie, folk
Axel carried his music all the way from Iceland to Australia, where he lives, works, and makes music.
EP: Ólöf Arnalds – The Matador
Genre: acoustic, folk
From her Bandcamp profile: “Ólöf Arnalds is an Icelandic singer. Her voice has been called “otherworldly” by The New York Times, “stunning” by SPIN, “bewitching” by Rolling Stone, “remarkable” by the NME, “ethereal” by Vanity Fair and “impossibly lovely” by Paste.”
EP: Bedroom Community – Iceland Airwaves 2012 Sampler
Genre: experimental, ambient, classical, folk, sampler
From their Bandcamp profile: “Bedroom Community is an Icelandic record label/collective formed in 2006 by Valgeir Sigurðsson, with Nico Muhly and Ben Frost, later adding Sam Amidon, Daníel Bjarnason, Puzzle Muteson and Paul Corley to the intimate roster.”
Single: Sigurdór Guðmundsson – Næm
Genre: improvisation, electric, jazz, bass, soul
EP: Sunna Gunnlaugs – At Vonarsalur
Genre: folk, jazz, piano
From her Facebook page: “Proclaimed an “impressive newcomer” by the VillageVoice, Icelandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs’ playing and compositions fuse her native Icelandic folk music with jazz, as the Washington Post described it, ‘such timeless virtues as lyricism and grace… elegantly bridges soulsearching passages with uncluttered swing.’ Her music appeal to jazzers and non-jazzers alike. Her quartet allows full expressive range. Fresh and bright, hear why Time Out NY says Sunna ‘is proof that jazz is as much a part of the picture as the pop of Björk or SigurRos.’”
Genre: ambient, celtic, fantasy
From his Bandcamp profile: “Mirko Garofalo. Italian student, currently living in Iceland. After having completed his first main project called “Teendar”, he’s starting a new one, whose title is “Axeljós”. One of his albums, “Eldgarður”, will be improved, remastered, and completed in this new project.”
Árstíðir – Live in Dresden 2013
Genre: indie, acoustic, a capella, chamber, pop
From their Facebook page: “Árstíðir is a vocal based acoustic band from Reykjavík. Intertwining themes around nature, darkness, and heartbreak, the members sing, string, play piano, and pick guitars. The result is an uncommonly wide spectrum of sound, driven by the members’ exceptional vocal range. It’s classical, or pop-sical. Sometimes it is simply called chamber pop.”
Single: Arctic Whisperings – gjöf
Genre: alternative, experimental, ambient, instrumental, post rock
From their Bandcamp profile: “Soundscapes influenced by the beautifully desolate landscapes and sounds of the chilling arctic echos of the northern world.”
EP: Á Geigsgötum – Verið Velkominn
Genre: experimental, dark, psychedelic
Deer God – The Infinite Whole
Genre: alternative, electronic, experimental, ambient, drone, lo-fi, noise, post rock
Deer God is an experimental electronica project of Þórður Indriði Björnsson. Yes, try to pronounce that!
Endurnýting – Veður
Genre: ambient, dark, drone
EP: In The Company Of Men – ITCOM
Genre: progressive, metal, grindcore, hardcore, mathcore, jazz
From their Bandcamp profile: “In The Company of Men is a Mathcore band from Iceland, founded in October 2011. The band has gained notoriety in the Icelandic metal scene for the intensity of their stage performances and complex time signatures.”
Which other countries and music cultures are you curious about?