Putting year 2013 in the Icelandic music into words ain’t easy task. Traditionally, a lot’s happened, in the end there were entire 12 months of the history, but looking at this from a perspective of an eye of the storm, the situation gets even more tangled. Here in Iceland, so many new sounds are created, they clang in different spots of the city, echo somewhere else and only sometimes they hit abroad, mainly thanks to the biggest annual festival. Bands have been preparing for this music feast since holidays. Briefly, I will show you how I had seen this past year – musically and very subjectively. I will try to summarize it in 10 albums and the order is meaningless… maybe except of the last one.
Mammút – Komdu til mín svarta systir
There are albums that despite of late arriving in the year, just click with me. And so, even though the new album was released almost in the end of October, with its dark rock Mammút has ability to play with my music taste almost immediately. I wondered why the Icelandic press was so delighted and put this album in each annual summary in the top ten. Now, I did the same. Well, it was worth to wait those 5 years.
There are few songs that without any obstacles can pull me out of my bed, even if later I have to use all possible ways by Tom and Jerry of keeping my eyes open. Lady Torrini recorded such a song once. Lately, she just served with a grace another album full of lovely sounds. Hungry of her voice, I come up with a fistful of those tunes and hide them in my pockets so those melodies can last for entire day.
Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I am Winter
It’s one of the most anticipated records of the year due to the fact that almost every release of Ólafur Arnalds appears in a specific period of time to me. This time Arnalds experimented with an orchestra arrangement, we could follow online his string quartet’s recording process. It supposed to be a perfect album, released at the perfect time and announced the day when all of you celebrated news about Sigur Rós show in Poland. That day, I jumped full of joy because the release date was set for this specific one, not any other Monday. However, the album carries a lot of sadness, melancholy, nostalgia, but it also gives hope. In the end, winter will be over one day and then white nights of our life will come.
Oyama – I Wanna EP
Oyama, the last year’s revelation of Iceland Airwaves. They captivated me with a cat. Actually, this is the first EP I wanted to hear when I finally stepped on the Icelandic ground. They can lull you with shoe-gaze, consoled to the slow rock rhythm, push into sleep but during concert they exactly know how to rock. And what Tiggers really like best – on the foundation of dynamic drums, with guitar’s scoops and feedbacks, the bass marches proudly.
Leaves – See You In The Afterglow
My official Iceland Airwaves started like that at Stúdentakjallarinn, which was Airwaves venue for the first time. Once called by me as Icelandic Coldplay long time ago, now Leaves gets rid of this patch slowly. They do it with an incredible grace thanks to the new album – with melodic songs based on steady drum beat. If you don’t have any energy to start you day, just listen to Lovesick. Pretty sure, you’ll take the stairs to the 16th floor like it was mentioned in the song.
That’s one of my Airwaves’ discoveries and definitely the youngest blood in this summary. Their prog-pop debut Brak EP is an extraordinary soundtrack for a long night staring at the autumn sky and late-night thoughts. They emanate with youthful enthusiasm for playing and have been already preparing their debut album. Who knows what will those three talented musicians grow into?
Múm – Smilewound
At the sound of Smilewound my thoughts go automatically to the Reykjanes Peninsula. There is a fog around, a rotten weather (oh, so Icelandic). We found the worst road of Iceland and the girls of Múm enchanted us with their voices. My mind flew away with the emphasized bassline. Moreover, one of more beautiful videos with Reykjavík as a background – Candlestick.
Bloodgroup – Tracing Echoes
Bloodgroup release this year’s best electronic album, which helped me to soak up with Reykjavík, the local clean oceanic air and extremely warm spring. With a gloom of Tracing Echoes in my headphones I waved goodbye to the winter darkness, hoping that actually wintertime is not any monster sucking out a willingness to act. All spots of Reykjavík downtown wears marks of Tracing Echoes. Except that, how could I not include in this summary the album of synth-pop Icelandic band that won my heart a long time ago…?
Video of the year – Eivør Pálsdóttir True Love
Maybe Faroe Islands are not Iceland, but it doesn´t change the fact that Eivør is firmly connected with the Land of Fire and Ice. Firstly, I got to know her magnificient voice thanks to Bloodgroup. Secondly, also because of this band I discovered how talented is Heiðrik á Heygum from Faroe Islands, who shot the video for Bloodgroup. But primarily, he put all his eggs in one basket to make dreams come true and a few years later created definitely the most touching music video I had seen in 2013. Maybe I´m softie but I cannot watch it without a pack of tissues and during this song I get chills on every square centimeter of my skin.
Sin Fang – Flowers
Flowers is the memory of summer morning’s sunlight decorated with indie pop melodies composed by Sindri. His twisted lyrics (I don’t even want to know where in his head are born such things). Made the trees grow out of your eyes, when I tell you you’re alright, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. A mountain with eyes. Echoes in my scull. In my dreams there are dogs running after you. Videos. The sonic joy of life. And don’t forget about epic school trips.
Live song of the year – Hymnalaya Svarta
I have to confess – there are few things that heard for the first time can turn me into dust thoroughly as Svarta live did. A gentle voice of Einar Kristinn Þorsteinsson, folk atmosphere and lyric, lyric, lyric once again. There’s nothing more to write about. You will hear it on your own ears in Białystok at Halfway Festival (but anyway you can trust my word).
Performance of the year in Reykjavík – the last show of Sudden Weather Change
If I had to choose Icelandic album of the year, which wasn’t released during the past 12 months, I wouldn’t have any problem. It would be a debut album of Sudden Weather Change, which has accompanied me for most part of the last year. I checked out the discography of this band from A to Z, from right to left, even backwards – in every possible way. Now, I can play What is that melody? with their songs. Waiting for seeing this band on the stage and learning how good they are live have taken me more than two years. Finally, I made it. Their last time, my first. On this year’s St Andrew’s Day. That good feeling you’re in the right place, with the right people, at the right time. The last time I reached this level of happiness attained during a concert was in Poland, but I cannot even remember when exactly it was. The last show of Sudden Weather Change was a gig that you actually don’t care about loosing your glasses, that they can drift away and not come back in one piece. After such an evening, you are only able to get out of the venue and make an eagle in the snow staring at the starry Icelandic winter sky. They played almost everything they could, almost all of the material, that has been composed since 2006, containing all six releases. Anyways, watch it by yourself here. Sudden Weather Change, I will miss you, thank you tremendously!
I can confess without beating! It has been a love at first sight or rather hearing since the first concert of this punk-rock band, which I had opportunity to attend. Thus, they are my undisputed discovery of the year. Absorbed by the music, raging singer made my mouth hanging open. In the beginning, his energy excess and different state of consciousness on the stage were terrifying. Now, I cannot imagine how it could be other than that. Since the first show, whenever I take someone to accompany me during Grísalappalísa performance, those people have been shocked and wanted to get back to another gig of the band. It means something! During this year, Grísalappalísa had given a lot of concerts in Reykjavík, but not even once I could tell they played poor gig. Their live performances are not boring, still they provide a huge punk energy and sonic joy. This team sends the listener home with a big smile upon his face. Accordingly, the best live band of the year. When they announced in July a release of their debut album soon, I was looking forward to it. Surprisingly, I wasn’t disappointed. This team cannot record a weak album! So many years of experience matter. Without a shadow of a doubt, the musicians of Grísalappalísa are authors of the best album of 2013, although rivals also tried hard, I must admit.