Bloc Party played in Kingston last night, the latest in a very long line of impressive live acts booked by the very wonderful Banquet Records to properly liven up the local live scene. In the last year or so, off the top of my head, I've seen Suede, Frank Turner, Maximo Park, The Cribs, The Wombats, Vaccines, Franz Ferdinand, JME and probably some others play just down the road from home (these things matter at my age OK).
Anyway, last night Bloc Party played about a minute of Big time Sensuality as an introduction to their track, 'Song for Clay' from their second album. Nice work, and proof below.
So, I am now collecting cover versions of Icelandic acts by non Icelandic acts. Let me have them...
The excellent recordings from the KEXP shows at the KEX Hostel during Iceland Airwaves 2015 have started to get posted online. They're fantastic quality, the shows and subsequent recordings have been a very welcome addition to the festival over recent years. All those uploaded so far are linked below. The Soley and Gus Gus shows are fantastic highlights.
Happy New Year! I finally sliced my wristbands off yesterday, and I finally managed to resolve all my internal arguments and settle on the 10 finest things I saw at Iceland Airwaves 2015. I've changed my mind several times since of course, but 8 weeks is probably long enough to make some decisions. So with huge regret towards the excellent Fufanu, Kælan Mikla, Kimono, Milkywhale, Þórir Georg and We$en here's my list...
What a show on the first night. They have the tunes, the set was a good mix of the familiar old and the new record. But what they have in even more abundance is charisma and showmanship. More specifically they have glitter, nudity, a horse’s head and nappies. By the time they played set closer “Love The Honey” in the early hours of Thursday morning all four of those things were on show and on the stage. The undisputed highlight of the first night.
I love this band. Two years after I first saw them at Airwaves 2013 I show absolutely no sign of getting bored of watching Grísalappalísa. I saw them three times this year. Twice I tweeted, “First rule of Iceland Airwaves – always see Grísalappalísa”. It is good advice, and anyone who likes seeing great tunes, performed with huge spoonfuls of energy, attitude and panache should place them top of a ‘to-see’ list. They are, like many others, possibly better in the smaller venues but their celebratory big show, in Harpa, came in between the Reykjavik! and Sin Fang shows that also make this list. It was some Friday night out.
It was SO nice to have NASA back as an Airwaves venue this year. It kind of thrilled me every time I walked in. The best show in there, and one of the best of the whole week, was by legendary metal band HAM. They filled that place with noise and atmosphere, it was a room full of people nodding (or banging) their heads in synch with each other from start – they started with the mighty Dauð Hóra, which set a pace that never let up. We are HAM. You are HAM.
Wait, what? A band that isn’t from Iceland! I’ve loved Hinds sound and attitude since I first heard them so they were a certainty to make it onto that very short list of international bands I really, really didn’t want to miss at Airwaves. Actually, I’m pretty sure they were the only name on it this year. They played in a mid-to-late night slot in a packed and familiarly sticky Gaukurinn. The venue suited them, as it suits so many every year, and their delicious guitar licks and clever vocal interplays and harmonies were spot on.
Pink Street Boys
I saw these boys three times at Iceland Airwaves 2015 (and one more time in London since, more on that soon). They put on a great show and have some brilliant songs, they’re kind of unique (yes – glib phrase used all too often about Icelandic bands). It was very telling how much more atmosphere there was at the show in Gaukurrin compared to the larger and much more open space of Gamla Bíó. For some bands, this is just how it works. It’s so important that Iceland Airwaves and the City of Reykjavík find a way to keep enough small sweatbox bars and venues to allow this type of show to happen in the right places.
This was special. After a gentle campaign, during which I like to think I stayed just on the right side of online bullying, those nice boys of Reykjavik! agreed that getting together, and dusting off their instruments around Airwaves time, might be fun. It had been three (or four?) years since they had last been spotted at Airwaves. So off we excitedly went to that cramped front bit of trendy Kaffibarinn, we wondered how on earth the band would fit into the space, let alone how Boas would satisfy his need to move through an audience. The reward was a long show, around 75 minutes. It was hot, sweaty, occasionally bloody and always emotional. All that, and I met their parents – they are NICE BOYS. The setlist was perfect – I guess you can’t call it a greatest hit set, but it sure did contain all of their best stuff form all albums, my highlight amongst many was Repticon, partly because I sang a bit of it. I can’t do it justice; it was magical to see this band play again. Same again soon boys?
Músíktilraunir (the annual music experiments competition for new bands) has a hell of a track record in finding talent. I was impressed by this years’ winners, Rythmatik. They are a straightforward 4 piece band, they write good guitar/pop songs and perform them well and with that shy, modest and slightly awkward charm that we’ve seen in a lot of young Icelandic acts. Their performances were good and they are only going to get better, they were definitely shifting a pleasing number of CDs after the shows I saw. Rythmatik area super-engaging band, and they’re very obviously having fun. Bonus points for showing up at the Reykjavik! Kaffibarinn show too.
There was a rumour going round the day before this Harpa show (this is the sort of rumour that goes around at Airwaves) that Sin Fang was going to play the old fashioned way, with a full band – guitars and drums and that sort of thing. I love watching Sin Fang with any configuration of machines and instruments but I think the songs are shown off best with a full live band. The set at Harpa was great, although it did seem to be quite short – I don’t know if that was planned or that there was something wrong technically that was beyond my unsophisticated ears. There is always a song or two that is being hummed in my head for weeks after Airwaves – this time, “Walk With You” was very much that song.
What a treat to see this band, rarely seen these days at Iceland Airwaves, and I had to miss their London show a few months back. There was just one chance, and it was in the small, cramped but perfectly appropriate setting of the 12 Tónar record store. It was also daytime, possibly twilight, which doesn’t seem like Singapore Sling’s natural habitat but this show was great. It was loud; there was a ferociously brilliant version of their best track of recent years, “You Drive Me Insane”. On top of all of that, a week later the world was treated to a brand new album. No wonder there was a song or two in the set I didn’t recognise.
I reckon these guys are the best of a very good bunch in Icelandic hip hop right now. It has clearly been a big year for the genre and for this band, there’s been a breakthrough into mainstream, it is arguably the biggest genre and got a lot of attention before, during and after Airwaves. I saw Úlfur Úlfur three times and they all felt like celebration shows, all were to packed audiences who knew seemingly every word of every song. They were never better than the first time I saw them, upstairs in the Loft Hostel where you could not have fitted a single extra body. I say I saw them, but it was pretty hard to see the stage through the constant forest of raised arms and leaping fans. They also got my favourite review comment, in this article from a guy named Sean (hi Sean!), “I'm not sure if you saw Ulfur Ulfur, but the only words I understood were "mother fucker". I still absolutely loved their set and I don't even like rap. That's kind of what Airwaves was for me, something that I didn't really understand, but still enjoyed because the general vibe was so positive.”
Same again next year then, Iceland Airwaves 2016 will go from November 2nd to 6th.
I just heard today the incredibly sad news that Juraj Kušnierik died last Friday, November 13th, in Reykjavik after having had a heart attack during Airwaves. The last post on his twitter feed is of the Ghostigital in-store show. Juraj was a Slovakian journalist, a great fan and supporter of Icelandic music, he also worked in the book industry. I didn't know him well at all, we swapped emails around Christmas every year about the best albums of the year out of Iceland - he was a kind supporter of this little blog and especially the end of year best records list.
There's a concert in his memory happening tonight in Húrra. The Icelandic music community is fabulous and kind, I wish I could be there. All the proceeds are going to his family. You can read more in Grapevine here - I know from his voting over the years that he would love the line-up. Here's to you Juraj xx
Every year, the week after Iceland Airwaves is full of the obvious great memories, the impossibility of getting that song out of my head (this year - Sin Fang's "Walk With You") and impatience to do it all over again a year on, but it is also full of regrets. Come on, there were something like 300 bands playing in Reykjavík a week ago – a lot of them very, very good bands.
It’s not fair. I can’t possibly see them all. At various points on Friday and Saturday evenings there were 14 different shows going on, and that’s just the official evening programme. I can’t imagine how many simultaneous shows were happening all at once during the off-venue peaks in bars, hotel receptions, bookstores, coffee shops and street corners around town.
It’s a fact of Airwaves that you will always be missing far more than you will see. There are regrets around the established favourites I didn’t catch this year, that list includes Retro Stefson, Sóley, Gus Gus, Hjaltalín, Oyama and FM Belfast. There are regrets about the buzzy new stuff that I never saw or heard, like Gangly, BC Camplight and Royal. Then there are those shows that I’ve heard people say were unmissable (guess what, I missed them) like Kiasmos, Mr. Silla, H09909, Agent Fresco, Bo Ningen and Dream Wife. Finally, it sounds like the big international acts all delivered great sets, but I didn’t see Mercury Rev or Beach House, I didn’t see Hot Chip or Ariel Pink and I didn’t even see John Grant’s show with the orchestra.
That’s a whole load of good stuff that I didn’t see. Luckily what I did see at Iceland Airwaves 2015 was, the vast majority of it at least, very good indeed. I saw 52 shows in total and I was home by the time the Sunday stuff kicked off. I saw one bout of northern lights, on the first night this year as opposed to the last night in 2014. There were burgers, hot dogs, incredible fish soup and that magnificent Christmas beer. I’ll be back here very soon offering a list of highlights, of which there were many – I was aiming for a top 10, but I feel like it might be 12 by the time I’m finished.
That’s from Echoes and Dust, who don’t have a bad record at spotting a bit of talent or two. Even after one album Agent Fresco ranked pretty high up on the list of Icelandic bands who might just be the next one to break out on a much larger scale. Now, with the follow-up record unleashed and basically drowning in 10/10 scores, that possibility must be increasing.
Agent Fresco has been an Airwaves mainstay for 5 or 6 years now, they always attract a big local crowd and a curious and fast won over, international one. The majority of their reviews come from Kerrang, Metal Hammer and that type of magazine but this is another Icelandic band that joyfully defies being easily allocated to a genre. All that, and yet somehow, this is their long overdue iceblah debut...
Hi Tóti, nice to talk to you! Where are you and what are you doing?
We’re in Reykjavík and currently getting ready for the European tour in November and December as well as preparing for Iceland Airwaves. We’re doing an acoustic set for the first time in a while with a string quartet so we’re working on arrangements for acoustic versions of the songs from Destrier that we haven’t done.
You’ve just launched your new record ‘Destrier’ to another truckload of magnificent reviews. Do you think it’s your best record yet?
Well it’s only our second album and we’re certainly very proud of it. It took way more time in the making than we anticipated but we couldn’t be prouder of the outcome. So yeah, the best one yet!
What can you tell me about the song ‘Wait For Me’, I think it’s my favourite on the record.
“Wait For Me” was written in my old apartment. I had some broken drum cymbals and percussion stuff laying around that I had been collecting for a while and thought to myself that it was time to put that to use. So I made the percussion parts in my bedroom, printed it to an old tape machine I have and it stuck all the way to the album. Sometimes it’s very hard to reproduce something that happens while writing. But the beauty of modern day recording is that you can capture it in quality that is very acceptable. Regarding the lyrics, Arnór is writing about him moving to Iceland and having seen peoples live moving on where he grew up in Denmark.
Do you guys have a favourite song to play live?
Favourite songs to play live change very often. We have to play a new song about 10 time live before the song really starts to feel comfortable and it’s been like that with every song. My personal favourite song to play live is at the moment “Howls”. Very energetic and uplifting and it’s one of my favourites from Destrier.
How was the release show in Harpa? It looked amazing.
Yes, it was amazing. I’ve never put so much time and effort into the arrangements for one concert and I was a nerve wreck before the show but I couldn’t be happier with the results. We had a lot of people playing with us for a total of 15 on stage including a string quartet and a brass section to make sure we could reproduce all aspects of “Destrier”. I hope we can do this kind of production outside of Iceland one day.
As far as I know, you are playing three shows at Iceland Airwaves this year, all probably pretty different. You headline in Harpa Silfurberg on the first night, then play in the church on the second night and finally out of town at the big party on Sunday night. Are you looking forward to three different types of show?
Yes very much. They are, like you said, very different and we’re going to approach them a bit differently without saying to much right now!
Finally, do you have any advice for people attending Airwaves or visiting Iceland for the first time?
Do schedule yourself but not too much. My most memorable moments on Iceland Airwaves have been in very small venues after hearing something interesting in the distance and following the sound. The tourists I meet usually know more about Iceland than me, which is a bit awkward, so don’t count on me but do go swimming! We have the best pools!
There are plenty of chances to catch Agent Fresco at Iceland Airwaves 2015. But beware, they are a popular bunch, the lines are always long:
Wed Nov 4th, 12:20am (Thursday morning) – Harpa Silfurberg
Thursday Nov 5th, 6:00pm – Bryggjan Brugghus
Thursday Nov 5th, 10:00pm – Frikirkjan
Friday Nov 6th, 4:00pm – KEX Hostel
Friday Nov 6th, 6:00pm – Bio Paradis
Sunday Nov 8th, 8:00pm – Vodafone Hall
Yes, I admit it. Even before I knew anything about Milkywhale, or heard any of their music, I was interested. It’s (another) one of those names that Iceland airwaves throws out every year that makes you want to find out more. It turns out that there’s a lot to like here. If you’ve ever wondered what you’d get if you mixed FM Belfast with a trained choreographer then you really are in for a treat.
I’ll be equally fascinated to see how this turns out on the big stage of Harpa and the, well, slightly less big stage of Hlemmur bus station during Airwaves week. I spoke to singer Melkorka (are you working the name out yet?) about all of this...
Hello Milkywhale, where are you and what are you doing?
Hi there! Right now I'm at home celebrating that I just finished a six weeks intense course at the Icelandic University, hallelujah - my weekends are back!
And how on earth did you come up with such an excellent name?
Well, I studied dance and choreography in Amsterdam and Brussels. People had such a difficult time learning how to pronounce my name, Melkorka, so I found out this way of explaining it to them. I said "It's like milk in Dutch and orca which is the Latin word for killer whale”. So I am the white milky killer whale that likes to sing pop songs.
So you are a choreographer working with Arni from FM Belfast. Sounds fascinating – how does that work on stage?
So far it has worked brilliantly. Árni is such an amazingly talented musician and we fit really well together when making music. Our basic rule is to have everything on the table in our working process so we can immediately tell each other if we don't like something. I think that is such a challenge, to be politely rude. When working together we try to make music and choreographies an equal thing. So after we've made our songs, we take them to a dance studio, play them over and over again while trying to figure out possibilities with it.
When Milkywhale performs, Árni is with the sound technician and does all his music magic from there, I have no control over anything, maybe that's why I have the need to move so much on stage - each concert is like a fitness class!
Presumably when you were training in dance you didn’t expect to end up fronting a pop band at Iceland Airwaves! How did that happen?
Wow, for me it is a dream coming true. I've been into music for so many years but never like this. I formed a performance band with some of my best friends when we were studying in Amsterdam. We were tired of moving our bodies; we wanted to move the audience instead. And when I met Árni, we shared the same vision of wanting to "choreograph" a concert. So instead of going on stage with random lights and visuals, we synchronized everything together as we wanted it to be. We're both so enthusiastic about this project. Milkywhale is different from everything we've done.
Is the whole show choreographed, or is there space in there for some improvisation?
Well, Milkywhale started out as a project at the Reykjavik Dance Festival, which we premiered last August. We like to think of that show as a database in our current concerts. So we're not bound by the structure we made, instead we take bits and pieces and give them a life of our own. Our show at Airwaves will definitely be spectacular in its own way. I like to think different with this project, a couple of weeks ago I was trying to think of ways to crowd surf in total silence and if it could work. Just imagine, it would be so great. Anyway, none of our shows are the same so let's see what happens at Airwaves. It will probably be a surprise to us as much as the audience!
You are playing on the Friday in Harpa on a nice bill headlined by Sin Fang. That seems like a good spot, are you happy with a big stage to move about on?
Absolutely! It is wonderful to play in Harpa and get a big stage. Especially since it is our first year as Milkywhale! I'm becoming pretty good in singing and dancing around small stages with drum kits while wearing high heels so everything else is just great. And we have such a great director working with us on visuals (www.magnusleifsson.com) who also did our "Birds of Paradise" music video.
So the whole show will be an intense combination of music, soundscape, dance and visuals.
What other acts are you super keen to see at Airwaves this year?
I love Beach House, I saw them at Airwaves a few years ago and I want to see them again, Sunday evening with Hot Chip and FM Belfast of course sounds great also, and if I wasn't playing myself, I would definitely go to the Hip Hop night at the Reykjavik Art Museum on Friday (we can go there all together after you've seen Milkywhale!). Actually my little sister is going to the festival for the first time this year so I think I'll let her decide which bands we'll see.
Finally, do you have any advice for people attending Airwaves or visiting Iceland for the first time?
If there is a band you really want to see, go early to the venue, there is nothing more frustrating than standing outside in a line freezing meanwhile your favourite band is playing, dress well, don't get too overwhelmed, pass by Bæjarins bestu in between Harpa Concert Hall and the other venues for a hotdog, try to crowd surf or head bang at least a couple of times, sing along with your favourite songs and don't plan to much - meet new people, see Milkywhale and let the festival surprise you!
OK, these are your opportunities to catch Milkywhale performances at Iceland Airwaves 2016:
Wednesday Nov 4th @3:00pm - Laundromat Café
Thursday Nov 5th @5:00pm - Geysir
Friday Nov 6th @ 9:40pm - Harpa Norðurljós
Saturday Nov 7th @ 5:00pm - Hlemmur Square
Æla have played at pretty much every Iceland Airwaves I've been to, which is more than a few. They are always worth seeking out. They are a punk band with a long history, with consistently exciting, surprising and insanely energetic live performances and a front man, Halli Valli, who is right up there with the best Iceland has to offer. And, you know, their name translates as 'puke', which is nice.
This year they will be at Iceland Airwaves with a long-awaited (nine years!) new record under their belt, 'Vettlingatök' was released a couple of months ago - the video for the new single, 'Your Head is my Ground' is below. It seemed a bit rude to have not ever featured them before, so I was delighted to have a chat with singer and guitarist Halli Valli.
Hi Halli! Where are you, and what are you doing?
Right now I am sitting in my new office space/studio in Århus Denmark (where I live) with a huge hangover. I came here to clean up after a housewarming party I had here last night. The rest of the band is in Iceland, most likely sitting at home watching their favourite TV show The Voice: Iceland.
It’s so great to have some new music from you guys. It has been 9 years since the last album. Are some of the songs 9 years old, or has it all come together more recently?
Thanks man, we are also very pleased to finally get it out. It has been a long process. There are one or maybe two songs that are the same age as the songs on our first album. But they have changed a lot since then. Most of the songs were written in the years 2009 - 2013. We have been performing them for a while and letting them evolve, trying the out on our fans. There were also a few songs that didn't make it to the album.
Does it feel good to have the record out there now? Are you happy with the reaction? Do you care?
It feels awesome! Personally I wish we had time get right back in the studio. I also wish we had more time to play live shows. The ultimate way to experience our music is live. Our albums are recorded "live", with all of us in the same room. What you hear is the one take we all played, the same time.
The reaction has surprised me. I thought people had forgotten all about us. But the album is getting good reviews, is selling and people are coming to our shows, so I can't say anything else than that I thrilled.
Æla is always a highlight of Airwaves, you must have played something like 10 versions. How important is the festival to local artists?
We have played Airwaves every year since 2005, except last year. Then we were getting the album ready and I was living in Denmark so we decided on finishing the work instead of playing shows. Iceland Airwaves is extremely important. You can really feel it as it gets closer, media, bloggers and music writers from all over the world are contacting the band for interviews and plans to meet up. But is also like an annual collage reunion for bands. It’s a big party and the Icelandic bands are usually playing a handful of off-venue gigs as-well. Everyone is in town for the same reason, to enjoy and discover new music, have fun and make love. It doesn't really have to go wrong, does it?
You are playing on the opening night, right between Born and Pink Street Boys. That seems like a good spot to be in. Have you any special plans for the show?
Yeah we are pleased with the spot on the program. That’s the other thing I always feel at Iceland Airwaves, it's an honour to share a stage with all these great bands.
We have something special planned for the night. I don't want to reveal to much but I can tell you we will have a film crew on the stage with us and some extras for the show!
Do you have any advice for people attending Airwaves or visiting Iceland for the first time?
I guess I would advise people to try to take it easy also. Don't over-plan, try to enjoy the moment. Dress for standing in queues. I can't see anything about the Blue Lagoon party that usually is on the Sunday (or was it Saturday?)...anyway, if that is on, I recommend it. DJ and beers in the Blue Lagoon. It has always been memorable, for me at least.
The nightlife is great and all the bars get very crowded but I recommend starting early and going home early. Everything that happens after 3am is just bullshit. Bullshit is ok but bullshit for 5 nights is just greedy. I recommend partying at Kaffibarinn, Paloma and Húrra, but it's been a while since I was a part of that scene in Reykjavík.
Thank you so much for your time – I’ll have a whiskey waiting for you if you play Love Your Honey, that song has become such a part of my annual Airwaves trip!
I will take that whiskey and I promise to play that song for you, thank you.
OK, so don't miss your two chances to see Æla play at Iceland Airwaves 2016:
Wednesday Nov 4th, 11:20pm at Gamla Bio.
Saturday Nov 7th, 5:30pm at KEX Hostel.
Every year, each new Iceland Airwaves brings with it a bunch of brand new vital sounding bands, and it also brings with it a great new array of fabulously named Icelandic bands. And sometimes, there is a band that fit perfectly into both categories. So, here are Vaginaboys – memorable name, memorable sounds and they are one of the most hotly tipped new bands on the line-up for Airwaves 2016.
I had to find out a bit more...
Hello Vaginaboys, where are you and what are you doing?
Hey Mark, we're good thank you. We're in Reykjavik, doing music!
So I guess we need to start with your name. How the hell did you decide on Vaginaboys?
I thought the term 'vaginaboy' being used in a degrading way to be a bit odd. So why not just fight it by calling it ourselves?
Can you tell us who is in the band behind those masks? And where we may have seen you before…
No, sorry about that.
Huh, I thought not. You’ve got a very active soundcloud page, including some very nice cover versions – how do you decide which songs to record?
Thank you. There's no particular reason for the songs we choose to remake. Just try to keep the production interesting.
Who would you most love to do a cover of one of your songs?
Great question. We'll we'd love Sigur Rós to take a shot on one of them. That'd be interesting.
What can Airwaves goers expect from your shows?
Increased blood flow and goosebumps we hope.
Finally, do you have any advice for people attending Airwaves or visiting Iceland for the first time?
Just try to be relaxed. It's a great place to relax. And enjoy the surroundings, look around, look above you when you're walking down the streets and take it all in.
Don’t resist the temptation, here are all of your chances to feast your eyes and ears on the vaginaboys:
Tuesday Nov 3rd, 7:00pm – Lucky Records
Wednesday Nov 4th, 4:00pm – Loft Hostel
Wednesday Nov 4th, 8:00pm – Húrra
Thursday Nov 5th, 5:00pm – Aurora Reykjavik
Friday Nov 6th, 8:00pm - Nasa
Every year as part of this series of pre Iceland Airwaves features I try to interview the winners of the annual Músíktilraunir competition (music experiments). The competition has an incredible record of finding brand new bands on their way up. I guess most famously of all with Of Monsters And Men in 2010, but there are many other great examples.
This year’s winners were Rythmatik, a four piece from the beautiful Westfjörds area, play a kind of indie rock which is still distinctly Icelandic despite their well-reported love of Scottish greats, Big Country. Who doesn’t love Big Country?! Rythmatik are a band to seek out at Iceland Airwaves 2015, they are clearly on the rise, and nice guys too...
Rythmatik, where are you and what are you doing?
We are currently located in Reykjavík, far away from home in the Westfjords where most of us were born and raised. We are currently in the midst of releasing our first ever EP, producing a music video and preparing for Iceland Airwaves, so there is a lot on our plates at the moment!
Congratulations on being the winners of Músíktilraunir this year. How exciting was that? And how exciting is it to see your name alongside some amazing bands that have won it before?
We felt and still feel ecstatic about it! It’s just such a big title here in Iceland and we still feel so overwhelmed that we actually won, it’s amazing! So many great bands that we admire have won and went on to do amazing things. Bands like Agent Fresco, Mammút, Maus, Mínus, Vök and the list goes on and on! We had competed the year before, but had only been practicing as a functional band for about 2 months. Needless to say, we crashed and burned that year, but we just found more drive to keep going and better ourselves so we practiced a lot the following year. If you think about how many practices you can fit into one year, I mean that is a lot!
I loved to see that you name Big Country as an influence. What a band! Were they big in Iceland?
Hahaha! That is actually one of the more frequent questions we get, which is great! Big Country is such an amazing band with such a unique sound that we just love. It has probably influenced Hrafnkell’s (Guitar, Vocals) guitar playing the most and you can tell in many of our songs. No, I wouldn’t say they were popular in Iceland, maybe more of a cult thing like they are elsewhere. We actually discovered them through our Dads (Valgeir, Hrafnkell) record collection, but many of the bands that we listen to come from that CD shelf at home.
I believe that you have released two songs so far (on soundcloud), are you working on an album?
Yes, it’s called Epilepsy and will be online October 16th! We are dying from the excitement and can’t wait to share it with everyone. Please track us down during Airwaves if you’d like a copy or look us up on the interwebs!
Do you guys have a favourite song to play live?
We’d have to say Brick Thief because we usually want to close the set with a banger and this one is the heaviest by far. It’s just the best feeling seeing people react to it, especially if they react nicely and don’t leave. Jokes, but it is fun to feel like a real heavy rock band once in a while, even if it’s just those 4 minutes.
You are playing on Thursday between Þórir Georg and Fufanu. That sounds to me like a great couple of hours! Are you happy with the slot?
Extremely happy, those are 2 of the most promising acts at this year’s Airwaves. Þórir Georg has that 90’s sounding laid back atmosphere and Fufanu, well Fufanu will rock your socks off! You should definitely check them out.
Who else are you super keen to check out at Airwaves this year?
Besides the big names like Retro Stefson, Agent Fresco and Ensími, we are looking forward to see many of the rising talent here in Iceland. Our boy Axel Flóvent for example is sooo talented and produces the most amazing music, also CeaseTone and Munstur. If you’re heading to some off-venue gigs we would also recommend Vára and Milkhouse, plus if you want to see something crazy go see dj. flugvél og geimskip!! I mean Iceland Airwaves is all about discoveries and experiences!
Explore, and don’t necessarily plan everything you are going to see. Go to the off-venues and be surprised, because those are the best finds, when you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get.
Go and see Rythmatik, here are all your chances...
Bíó Paradís - Wed, November 4, 2:00 PM
Slippbarinn - Thu, November 5, 5:00 PM
Iðnó - Thu, November 5, 8:40 PM
Bókabúð Máls og Menningar - Fri, November 6, 4:30 PM
Hitt húsið - Fri, November 6, 7:00 PM
CenterHotel Arnarhvoll - Sat, November 7, 4:40 PM
Tjarnarbarinn - Sat, November 7, 5:50 PM
Gaukurinn - Sun, November 8, 11:30 PM
Axel Flovent is a singer-songwriter from Akureyri who played his first Airwaves festival a year ago and is back again after a year that has seen him release a highly acclaimed EP, led by the fabulous ‘Forest Fires’ (you can hear it below) and tour around Europe. The stage is definitely bigger this year for the indie-folk musician, he’s in for a very busy Airwaves festival...
Hey Axel, where are you and what are you doing?
Hey, I’m in the studio, putting together the last pieces for my debut LP.
What a great year you have had since last Airwaves! What has been the most fun part?
The most fun part has definitely been my recent Germany and UK tour. It was great fun.
You’ve already played some shows and got some press attention outside Iceland but how important is the Iceland Airwaves festival for young Icelandic artists like you?
Yeah, it’s very Important! I’m a big fan of this festival and I have been for a long time, and I’m honoured to be a part of the line up this year.
What are the plans to follow up the really amazing Forest Fires EP from earlier this year?
Hopefully a single soon, and more news about the next release, but I don’t really know what it will be. Something soon though!
You’re part of a great looking line-up in Harpa on the opening night of Airwaves. What can we expect from your Iceland Airwaves shows?
Hopefully just a really nice concert, we’re working on some ideas and hopefully it will just turn out great!
Finally, do you have any advice for people attending Airwaves or visiting Iceland for the first time?
A good bit of advice for people that are attending Airwaves for the first time is to use it as a way to discover new acts. I don’t have a lot of Airwaves experiences because last year was my first time there, but my absolute favourite was when I went to see few artists I didn’t expect anything from, and experienced their purity.
You can see Axel play SEVEN times at Iceland Airwaves 2015. The on-venue shows are:
Wednesday 4th 8:50 at Harpa Silfurberg
Sunday 8th 10:30 at Gaukurinn
And the five off-venue opportunities are:
Wednesday 4th 10:45am at Grund Dvalar
Thursday 5th 1:00 at Bryggjan Brugghús
Thursday 5th 5:00 at Stúdentakjallarinn
Friday 6th 5:00 at Slippbarinn
Saturday 7th 2:00 at Landsbankinn Austurstræti
Photo credit: Siggaella.
21 year old GKR is an up and coming hip hop artist from Reykjavík and one of a growing number of acts in that area and RnB getting a load of attention at home but also starting to get some outside of Iceland too. It feels like the scene, if that’s what it is, is growing fast right now and that this edition of Iceland Airwaves could well be the biggest one yet for that genre, especially homegrown. I’ve seen some exceptional rap shows at Airwaves over the years but take a look, for example, at the mouth-watering line-ups at Húrra on Wednesday and then in the Art Museum on Friday. GKR himself is very deserving of your attention, his shows are sure to be busy.
Hello GKR (or can I call you Gaukur?), where are you and what are you doing?
Já halló. You are more than welcome to call me Gaukur because GKR stands for Gaukur, you can also say G-K-R, it doesn’t matter. I’m just in bed, at home, answering these questions, after that I’m going to my studio to make some bangers with my man BANGERBOY aka MARTEINN. It’s 00:30 right now.
How long have you been making music? You’ll be a new name this year to many Airwaves goers.
I studied music when I was younger at Tónlistarskóli Reykjavíkur and played the piano but that was only for about 4 years (Fun fact: I was in class with the Pascal Piñon sisters). Since I remember I’ve always had a head full of ideas craving to create something, not music particularly, just create, in general. But I recorded my first rap track in the summer of 2012, I guess that’s when I started creating music for real.
Are you the Icelandic Kid Cudi? That’s what it says on last.fm.
No I’m not the Icelandic Kid Cudi, I am the Icelandic GKR (or at least I think I am). Kid Cudi is definitely one of my main inspirations though, I listened a lot to him from age 16-19. I’m 21 now and if it weren’t for Cudi I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to start this music career all on my own. I’m happy if someone catches some Cudi vibes from my music, a month ago a guy came to me and said that my song “1” made him tear up, I was very pleased to hear that, probably one of the strongest complements I’ve received and it’s brave of him to admit that, because I don’t know him at all. By the way I didn’t even know I had tracks on last.fm, maybe Cudi put my music up there???
Do you feel like part of a scene? There are quite a few new and young acts coming through this year in hip-hop and RnB.
I do feel like I’m a part of a music scene here in Iceland but I don’t want to be put in only one category. I am happy that the hip hop acts support me, they support me a lot and I truly appreciate that but I don’t want to become looked at as “just one of the guys in the scene”, I think that distracts the ears/eyes from the art itself. And also I don’t want to limit myself to one genre, I want to be able to play with indie bands or electronic acts etc. It might be weird of me to say this but I just want people to put my art in first place, rather than judging me by the hype, if that makes sense. Maybe I’m wrong though, you know, they say all exposure is good exposure, maybe it’s just because I’m new to this and I’m a bit afraid.
Both of your official Airwaves shows will be in the excellent Húrra venue. There’s rumours that it may be not be around much longer. That would suck, right?
Hahaha oh man, I just realized that I am playing TWICE at Húrra after reading your question, I thought I was only playing on Sunday, nice, the line-up at Húrra on Wednesday is good! Also the line up on Sunday (special shout out to my man Lord Pusswhip).
OK, to the sad part of this question, yes, if the rumours are true that’s a real sad thing. I am not at all pleased with the attitude towards Reykjavik’s downtown culture from the people building these tourist shops and hotels.
I would much rather want to go see a local Icelandic talent at a crowded venue with a crowd that arrives there only to have fun, than going into a tourist shop to see stuffed toy puffins, plastic viking helmets and the Icelandic flag in the format of a refrigerator magnet. Who knows, maybe some cool place will open up somewhere else if Húrra closes, downtown becomes a tourist place and the party is going to be moved to Grandi (the bay area). By the way, I was very happy to see that NASA is a venue for Iceland Airwaves because I have so many wonderful feelings related to that place, feelings that I would never get after a look into that "wonderful new tourist shop”.
You appear on several lists of acts not to miss this year. What can we expect from your Iceland Airwaves shows?
I’m only going to give away this: If you come to my show, doesn’t matter where or when, I want you to forget the sad, skip the worries, stress or just anything related to negative thoughts. I want people that attend my shows to do whatever makes them happy, whether it’s to jump, dance, sing, stand, sit, drink, laugh, talk, I don’t know, I mean if you’re in a sad mood, it’s okay to be sad, just embrace it and try to turn it into a positive or something. JUST FEEL FREE, there is no need to be shyyyyyyy
I love people that turn up with me when I play live shows, when you feel that mutual energy, from an artist to the crowd, it’s a great feeling man.
My best advice would probably be: Go see GKR, I’ve heard he’s an amazing rapper and like a great guy too.
Serious advice: You might have to wait in line, for a while. Make sure you enjoy that time. I’ve made a lot of friends from past Airwaves because I waited in a line and it kind of became a part of the experience.
I’m looking forward to Sophie and Skepta. Sophie is playing at nasa which is my favourite venue this year. Future Brown and Gangly are acts I’m also interested in seeing live. I will also try to see as many of the up and coming Icelandic acts. And of course I will go see the classic Icelandic artists/bands that play every year, they always deliver, Icelandic people are super talented I must say.
I can't disagree with that last sentence! As discussed you can, and you probably should, catch GKR playing at Húrra on the Wednesday night at 20:40 and on Sunday at 21:40.
And you can also catch GKR off-venue at these times (and possibly more too!)
Friday 18:00 at Bíó Paradís
Saturday 15:30 at Íslenzki Barinn
Saturday 16:30 at Laundromat Café
One of the more exciting aspects of Iceland Airwaves 2015, now just over 2 weeks away, is the return of the iconic Reykjavík venue, NASA. It’s going to be a real treat to get back in there having had more than a handful of incredible nights there in the past. I was always likely to head to NASA at the first opportunity, but it’s even more certain now that we know that Wesen will be the first band on that stage on the first night of the festival. Wesen are a new band, but not a new collaboration, between Júlía Hermannsdóttir from Oyama and others and Loji Höskuldsson from Sudden Weather Change and others. These guys have a great past and the handful of songs as Wesen that I’ve heard are great.
So it made sense that the first of this year’s Iceland Airwaves preview interviews would be with the first band I’ll be seeing on venue. Luckily Júlía also thought this was a good idea...
Hello Wesen, where are you and what are you doing?
I'm sitting at my kitchen table at home. I just had dinner and coffee down the street at Stofan Café, but I'm still feeling too lazy to organize my make-up drawer like I said I would.
Do I call you Wesen or WE$EN? Do you mind?
No we don't mind, whatever you prefer is fine. I've been alternating the spelling between Wesen, WESEN, W€$€N & ₩€$€₦, partly for fun, partly to mess with people, partly in hopes that it will work as a spell and the band will make us rich in the future somehow.
You guys are well known in the Icelandic music scene from Sudden Weather Change and Oyama and Loji's solo work. Is it right that you two actually worked together before any of that?
Yes that's right. We both grew up in 104 of Reykjavík so we've known each other since we were 13 or 14 years old. In 2004 we worked together as wall-painters and that's how we started We Painted the Walls, our first band. We've both worked on a bunch of different projects since then (plus I went and lived in New York City for over 4 years) but we always worked well together so it's about time we got back together.
You have three fabulous songs released via soundcloud right now - what's the plan for releasing more stuff?
We've completed a 10 track album that we're super excited about releasing to the world. Our songs were already good but then Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson (of FM Belfast) stepped in as producer and godfather of Wesen, which brought the whole thing up a notch. Or like two notches. We haven't made a final decision on how or exactly when the album is coming out, but we're aiming for some time this winter.
Is it great to be playing an opening slot at the first night of this year's festival?
Yes. It's a great way to kick off the festival and we're pumped to work hard this year. Also, this will be our 10 year anniversary of playing Airwaves together. Loji and I last played Airwaves as We Painted the Walls in 2005, which was also the very first airwaves performance for both of us. A real teenage dream.
What about being the first band back in the legendary NASA venue for Airwaves, you must have both played there before I guess - how exciting is it that NASA is back in use?
I've never played there before but I saw a lot of bands there as a teenager, including some great ones at Airwaves '04 and '05, so I'm way excited about it. I'm glad NASA is back and that this time I'll be taking the stage, hopefully setting a good example for some ambitious teens out in the crowd.
What can Airwaves goers expect from your shows?
Loji is usually very funny and charming but tends to be clumsy. I'm not that funny but I keep him on track and I'm very honest and put my heart into it. The songs are catchy as f, I'm sorry to sound smug but they are, and I hope they'll leave you wanting more.
The Reykjavik Grapevine is a fine local publication that's a way better guide to Reykjavík than I will ever be. My main Airwaves advice is probably just: If you're like me and always try to pre-plan your schedule down to the minute, it's good to have a backup plan to avoid total disappointment in case the popular thing you wanna see is way too crowded. Speaking of crowds, being friendly and kind to the people around you pays off. Check out the off-venue schedule too, but don't overdo it – listen to your body and don't feel like you're missing out if you need to chill between shows. Drink tap water, it's the best.
You can see Wesen, WESE, W€$€N or ₩€$€₦ several times during Iceland Airwaves 2015:
The main show is in NASA in Wednesday 4th at 7:30pm, and I will see you there. There are also all these other chances to see them
WED 4/11 @ Bíó Paradís, 3:00 PM
WED 4/11 @ Nasa, 7:40 PM (official)
THU 5/11 @ Nordic House, 2:00 PM
THU 5/11 @ Kaffibarinn, 4:45 PM
THU 5/11 @ 12 Tónar, 6:15 PM
FRI 6/11 @ Kaffihús Vesturbæjar, 5:00 PM
SAT 7/11 @ Hlemmur Square, 4:00 PM
SAT 7/11 @ Húrra, 8:50 PM (official)
It feels like it has been a bit of a year for music comebacks. Blur are back with a new album which, in places, sounds beautifully like Modern Life Is rubbish. The Bluetones are coming back around again later in the year. Most excitingly of all, Nineties champs, the mighty Collapsed Lung have a couple of dates in the book for the first time in 5 years or so - unmissable stuff.
On top of all that excitement, the rumours that were around when I was over there for Sonar are confirmed. That wonderful, memory-making Reykjavík venue NASA will be back in use for Iceland Airwaves 2015. It's been closed, and standing idle for several years now, waiting to become part of (yet) another downtown hotel. It will be exciting to step back inside, to see if it has changed (in February I was told it was basically untouched) and how it is used for Airwaves.
For now, here's what I wrote in January 2012 when the news was first circulating that it was to close down. I know I'm not the only one with a load of memories.
Please Don't Close Nasa
No, not the space people thingy - I couldn't care less about that. The great venue/club/jar of memories in Reykjavik. News emerged a few days ago of plans to take down the wonderful NASA venue and turn it into yet another hotel. If there's one thing Reykjavik has a hell of a lot of it's hotels, surely this is insanity? Actually, of course RVK has a good helping of music venues too but that doesn't mean that one of the best, most charming, most important and most full of memories should be allowed to bite the dust. It's important to me, it's important to a lot of musicians, fans, bar staff and it's surely pretty crucial to the continuation of Iceland Airwaves as we know it - there's not a venue like it. Some good news later in the week from the grapevine, it appears all may not be lost.
Of course it comes down to money - can it justify the rent that's asked of it? Can the city or the government do anything to help preserve it and smooth the route to survival. A hell of a lot of people would like that, it would be a fine and popular thing to support. Well over 1,000 people have already signed this petition (there's also link on the top left of this page) organised by the excellent John of the equally excellent Brainlove Records.
Please, please sign the petition.
In the meantime, and off the top of my head (so forgive omissions and hazy memories), some personal NASA highlights:
In 2004 instructed by the good folk of 12 Tonar, my first trip to NASA was to see Mugison's Airwaves show. Actually the first band I saw were the long gone Ske, but the advice to see Mugi was amongst the best I've ever received. Ever since I've enjoyed Mugison and trusted 12 Tonar.
I think 2006 was the year that the mighty Reykjavik! played a typically boisterous show there, the highlight of which was a three girl choreographed dance routine to "All Those Beautiful Boys" - hilarious and brilliant. We watched with (well beneath) Boas from the audience. You know what? I dug out the video...
2007 was an amazing festival. French band The Teenagers were so cool back then, their Airwaves NASA show was sleazy brilliance. The best kind! On the Saturday night we wandered into NASA off the street after something else finished to catch the second half of a sweaty, pumping, incredible set from Gus Gus swiftly followed by the usual amazingness of Ghostigital (right) - maybe my favourite Airwaves night of them all.
I remember 3 remarkable gigs from 2008 in NASA - the first time I ever saw Retro Stefson, they were so young, they filled the stage with balloons, they sounded great! Dr Spock, complete with rubber gloves, balaclava and a large dose of gob. And Faeroe Islanders Boys In A Band really rocked NASA but the best of the year, one of the most startling things I've ever seen, the choir of mountainous fishermen, Fjallabræður (right) - incredible sounds and then they hit the dancefloor.
The FM Belfast show in 2010 at NASA - the final show of the festival was immense. It was late, it was load, the stage was as crowded as any part of the cramped venue. They played forever, they played every song, everyone knew all the words and then, from somewhere, they played Sweet Child Of Mine and finally the whole place shouted every single word of Underwear right back in their faces.
Please don't close NASA.
Just as 2 years ago, I couldn’t resist the late temptation to pay a quick visit to Reykjavík for the Sonar festival. The festival represents a very nice opportunity to see a good number of local favourites over the course of three days (actually, pretty much over 2 days, as there were very few local acts playing on the Saturday night), as well as another chance to spend some time in Iceland.
The fun began as we landed at Keflavik. On the plane there was a real and palpable sense of surprise and a little anger that Iceland was indeed both very cold and covered in snow. This was clearly a genuine surprise to many on board whose level of research can be called into question. I loved the cold and, in particular, the snow. I hadn’t previously been to Reykjavík when there was such a thick blanket. I enjoyed the fresh crunch underfoot, the slushy pavements and the pristine gardens around town. On the Friday the combination of the snow and the pure, deep blue sky was beautiful. As many locals pointed out to me, this gets really boring after 10 weeks, but for a weekend visitor it’s magical – sorry.
There’s an obvious contrast to be made between Sonar and Iceland Airwaves. Beyond the more tightly defined style of music, the other main difference is in the location. The fact that the entirety of Sonar takes place inside the Harpa concert hall/complex is both the good news and the bad news. Its good news as there is no need to be rushing between venues and getting cold in queues. In fact it is particularly good news this year since the entire concourse and approach to Harpa is a good, thick sheet of ice full of drunken doom and danger. Personally though, I love the rushing between venues of Airwaves. Sonar simply doesn’t take over central Reykjavík in the same way. I’d say it is perfectly possible to be a tourist in town during Sonar and not be aware of it. That is certainly not true in early November when every other shop window and café has a band playing in inside. I like both festivals, I prefer Airwaves because it is bigger, last longer and is all over town. Simple really, I like my Icelandic music to be more varied, to last longer and to be in more places.
The other big difference is in the attendance. Sonar is much younger, and much more local – I estimated that around 80% of people there were Icelandic. Perhaps as a direct result of one or both of those things, the Sonar audience is a much drunker audience – the first vomit of the festival was noted by the Grapevine newspaper at 10pm on the opening night. Amateurs. There was a lot more security than at Airwaves, probably due to the association of the music with drugs – I saw zero evidence of that.
I’m writing this 2 weeks after the festival, too late for a blow by blow review. Instead I’m simply going to list the best five things I saw at Sonar. I’m afraid it contains few surprises.
I was a little surprised at this selection. I love Retro Stefson, but I haven’t really fallen in love with any of the various offshoots. Honestly, I had found that Uni’s recorded solo stuff had washed over me; all very pleasant, but it hadn’t stuck. It seemed to lack the bounce and energy. Live though, it was a different story. Firstly, my heart lifted at the sight of a guitar. Then, as anyone who has seen Retro Stefson will know that Uni is a first-rate front man and whilst, in this format, he doesn’t bounce around the stage starting parties, he is still a tremendous singer with very fine stage presence. The live versions of the songs, partly due to the guitar, had meat and weight that I hadn’t really got from the record. I enjoyed the show waaay more than I expected to, and I’ve enjoyed going back to the EP.
Fufanu are on a roll, they’ve starting playing all around Europe. They’ve played with Damon Albarn in various parts of the world including, memorably, London’s Royal Albert Hall. Now they’re set to play with Blur in Hyde Park later this year. As far as I know, this was the biggest room they’ve played in at home, and coming directly before Ghostigital, a pretty important occasion for the young band. Of course, there was not a trace of nerves, not a foot was put wrong. They took to the stage with confidence and blasted out their set which is becoming more and more familiar and promises much for their debut album that will be with us later in the year.
There was more dancing at this show than any other I saw at Sonar. There was something approaching a mosh pit, albeit a Sonar style mosh pit.
There was also more laughing than at any other show. When Einar Örn stood at the front of the stage, arms outstretched to the sides, and asked the crowd to take his photograph, the crowd obeyed. This photo-call wasn’t an ego thing by the way, this was part of a lament about his own mobile phone being stuck inside his thigh. I love the world of Ghostigital.
(photo above) Perhaps the most non-Sonar band of all the local additions. It’s not a complaint as I love them, and any chance to watch them play. It didn’t seem to bother any of the capacity crowd in the festival’s biggest hall one bit. Prins Póló had an amazing 2014 with prizes for band of the year, album of the year (for Sorrí) and song of the year (for París norðursins) being showered all around them. Just to cement their local favourite status they opened their show here with a cover of FM Belfast’s (who were in the audience) unofficial national anthem Underwear.
I was pleased to see the set up here had the same dual drummer approach as Sindri’s Airwaves show, it worked excellently again. The difference here was that he was joined on vocals by Jófríður Ákadóttir of Samaris (the two are also working together on a project by the name of Gangly). My memory is that the set was largely similar to the Airwaves one, Jófríður’s vocals certainly made a difference – especially on the slower songs in my view. Where the Prins Póló show started with a bang, Sin Fang’s seemed to build throughout to the excellent final song, Young Boys.
Other than these, I really enjoyed the shows by Young Karin, Mugison & Dark Features. The best international acts I saw were Sophie and Yung Lean.
It seems that Nasa is set to re-enter the RVK101 club scene and, who knows, return to being a concert venue. Right now, from what I can gather, it is largely untouched and whoever owns it is looking for a manager to look after it.
I went to the Cory Arcangel exhibition at the ReykjavíkArt Museum. I really loved it, I could stare at old vinyl, console games and listen to The Strokes for a long time. Also, I had only ever been in the Art Museum before as an Airwaves attendee. That room, it’s open air! LOOK! Who knew!
Totally played Pong on the Harpa façade. Amazing, but very cold hands.
Lily the Kid are brother / sister duo Lilja Jónsdóttir and Snjókaldur Svarfdal. Last Autumn they released their first E.P. and then played their first ever live shows at Iceland Airwaves. That's a nice start.
Those shows received great reviews across the board, and they will be looking to follow up at their highly anticipated Sónar show next week.
I had a chat with Lilja,
Hi Lilja, where are you right now and what are you doing?
Hi! Right now I'm taking some time off, I'm in Stockholm, Sweden. Just freezing and seeing the city. It's beautiful.
Many congratulations on all the great reviews of your performances at Airwaves. Did you enjoy it?
Thank you so much! I really loved it. I love Iceland Airwaves. You're in this turmoil of trying to be on time for your own shows, trying to see your friends shows, then celebrating, and then waking up the next morning to play some more shows. All the while dragging your gear around central Reykjavik.
And is it right that they were your first shows as Lily The Kid?
Yes, those were our first shows ever. I had the greatest people with me on stage, so I wasn't really nervous about the music sounding bad. I was mainly nervous about myself.
Next week you are playing at the Sonar Festival. How important are these international festivals like Sonar and Airwaves to an Icelandic band? Is it all about getting noticed and picked up outside of Iceland?
It does help a lot, at least in getting your name out there. It's also just really cool to be a part of something like this, because these festivals have standards about the venues. The audience is usually enthusiastic as well, so that makes it even better.
What other acts are you hoping to catch at Sonar?
I'd love to see Kindness, Páll Ivan frá Eiðum, Sophie, Fufanu and M-Band.
Do you have plans to release more music this year? Maybe even a full length album?
We are starting work on our next EP, we hope to release something in the spring. A full length album is something we want to start working on soon, so we'll see!
Finally - can you give some local advice for people who may be visiting Iceland and Reykjavik for the first time for Sonar?
You can only buy alcohol at Vínbúðin (and the bars), so don't buy non-alcoholic beer in Reykjavik's most expensive convenience store (this is extremely common behaviour among our visitors). Also, go to Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pool for a nice dip in the hot tubs. It does wonderful things, especially after a long night.
Lily The Kid are playing at 8:30 on the Saturday night of Sonar in SonarHall (known normally as the Norðurljós venue inside Harpa). I definitely suggest you make an early start to your Saturday night and go see them.
Once again, thanks for all the voting. There were 70 votes in the end, the vast majority from outside of Iceland. It was really close between the eventual top three for a long time but thankfully, yesterday an order emerged (plus a fairly chaotic five way tie for 4th spot!). A lot of people have commented when they voted that it felt like a weaker year than the last few. I agree to an extent, although hopefully you'll see below that there have been some very good and varied records released this year by some very fine Icelanders.
30 different records got at least one piece of love. Albums which just missed out on the top 10 include Sólstafir, Börn, Skakkamanage, FM Belfast and the excellent Snarl 4 compilation record.
Anyway, here's your top ten. Many congratulations to Oyama. A career highlight no doubt :-)
2. Samaris - Silkidrangar
3. Grísalappalísa – Rökrétt framhald
4= Hafdis Huld - Home
4= Prins Póló – Sorrí
4= Rökurró - Innra
4= Singapore Sling - The Tower Of Foronocity
9. Óbó - Innhverfi
10. Pink Street Boys – Trash From The Boys
2011: Sóley - We Sink
2012: Ghostigital - Division Of Culture & Tourism
2013: Sin Fang - Flowers
I reckon we are pretty good at picking an excellent record, so let's do it again. I'm just about recovered from Airwaves and I'm ready to add up some votes and sometime between Christmas and the end of the year I'll post the top ten Icelandic albums (or EPs) of 2014 decided by you beautiful people.
The rules are the same, email me at markollard AT googlemail DOT com, or dm me at @iceblah on twitter, send me a postcard or buy me a pint and run me through a powerpoint presentation. Any way you like just get me a list of your (up to) five favourite Icelandic records of 2014, they will all get one vote each and I'll do the maths.
Please have a go, the more votes we get the better the outcome. there have been over 60 voters every year so far. Over 30 different albums got a mention last time.
If you need any help or inspriation you can find a couple of excellent lists already on the old interweb. Firstly, the shortlist of 20 for the Kraumur prize is here, and secondly the ever-reliable Dr Gunni has already taken the plunge and named his best releases of the year on his blog here.
And if you are interested in where my money has gone, I think this is what's been added to my modest little Icelandic collection in 2014...
Börn - Börn
FM Belfast - Brighter Days
Grísalappalísa - Rökrétt framhald
Gusgus - Mexico
Hafdis Huld - Home
Kiasmos - Kiasmos
Oyama - Coolboy
Pink Street Boys - Trash from the Boys
Prins Póló - Sorrí
Rökkurró - Innra
Samaris - Silkidrangar
Sindri Eldon - Bitter, Resentful
Singapore Sling - The Tower Of Foronicity
Skakkamanage - Sounds of Merrymaking
Sóley - Krómantík
Þórir Georg - Ræfill
Þórir Georg - Some Shit and Others
Uni Stefson - EP1
Young Karin - Highlands n°1
Where do I start? I’ve promised myself this won’t be too long, but I saw 56 shows across 4 days. I must admit that 13 of those were in the same hour and a bit in one of those wonderful Airwaves daytime rushes around town seeing just how many bands it is possible to see in a short space of time.
In short, it was once again a wonderful festival. Reykjavik had that special buzz, it was busy, it was hectic. There were shows, there were drinks, there were friends and familiar faces and big Icelandic hugs, there were long lunches, there were hot dogs (many) and there was one (just one) memorable oreo milkshake. It was superbly organised again, the security was improved in terms of friendliness and efficiency having reached a low point two years ago. There were fewer idiots around, although the Art Museum venue was yet again badly affected by constant chatter in all but the front third. This was particularly terrible for Mammút’s show on Saturday – most people there blatantly ignoring the stage and chatting in groups, presumably waiting for later shows from Future Islands and Caribou. Supremely irritating.
I'm starting with my top three acts, so much harder than doing a top ten! For me, there was one band that stood out. If you have seen me since or glanced at twitter, you will know that that band is Grísalappalísa. I love these guys. Last year they had just released a brilliant debut album and their show was one of the highlights of Airwaves. This year, they’ve released a fabulous follow-up record as well as some choice cover versions and I saw them play three shows; the first was with local legend Megas, and was made up of his songs – I barely new any of the songs but they sounded great and the energy on the room was second to nothing I’ve ever seen at Airwaves. All three shows were compelling, exciting, spirited and simply great fun. They have two incredible front men – Gunnar being more obviously in your face but they work together so well as a duo both visually and vocally. But it is a seven man effort that makes it all work, they even have a saxophone high in the mix that isn’t annoying, that’s some trick. Long live Grísalappalísa.
The other two home grown acts that especially stood out for me this time around were Ghostigital and Þórir Georg. I am never not entertained and moved (physically) by Ghostigital; their music is incredibly well put together and again, there is a front man that I, at least, cannot take my eyes off. I had learned beforehand that they intended to play only new stuff from a forthcoming new record (woohoo!). In fact, they did play some familiar things and the newer stuff all sounded good and familiar enough to be as comforting as searing beats making ears throb and bodies contort and the stabbing saxophone (again!) blasts backing up Einar’s familiar delivery.
Þórir Georg is not a front man like Einar Orn or Gunnar Ragnarsson. His movements are mainly to switch guitar pedals, but this year more than other he stood there with his three piece band and delivered a supremely confident, assured and thrilling set of songs from his ever-expanding back catalogue (largely from the excellent Ræfill album). I’ve seen him many times, but never on form this red hot and I was only gutted that it was delivered to a half full Iðnó in the opening slot of Friday night.
Behind those three are a mass of other Icelanders. Fufanu deserve a special mention, they struggled horribly with technical issues at their Gamla Bio show. It’s terrible to see any band in that position but for a young band on the rise in front of a big crowd it was pretty heart-breaking. They absolutely put it right one night later in Gaukurinn with a blistering set which prompted one local (who may or may not be part of their record label) proclaiming them the best band in Iceland. Now, where’s the album? On the other hand, Oyama have just unleashed a new album and backed it up with a show at Airwaves that was a class above anything I had seen from them before. I hadn’t, and still haven’t, got around to listening to the record but judging by that show in Gaukurinn, I’m in for a treat.
There were great shows too from regular favourites Sin Fang, Mugison, Retro Stefson, FM Belfast, Prins Póló and Mammút. I love them all and they all delivered brilliantly. Sin Fang picked up on this year’s very clear trend for two drummers and it suited a lot of his songs very well. Mugison (pictured at the top of this article) played to a packed crowd in Harpa and broke a few hearts with a duet with Runa, his wife, and a passionate speech on the current strike by music teachers in Iceland (seriously, give them more, they very clearly do an amazing job!). Retro Stefson easily filled the void (and then some) left by the late withdrawal of UK band Jungle, the highlight being the final song, Senseni, complete with the returning Haraldur running around in the crowd just like the old days. FM Belfast did what FM Belfast do; they made a packed room of people very sweaty and very happy indeed. They didn’t include their recent cover version of Ghostbusters but Fight For Your Right, I’ve Got The Key and Wonderwall all got the treatment. Prins Póló was great fun, it was the first time I had seen them play many of the songs on their excellent recent album – every bit as good as the first. I think Mammút played an incredible show, but I spent most of it wishing spontaneous combustion on about two thirds of the Art Museum audience, thankfully I had found a way to filter the chat out by the time the show climaxed with a poundingly spectacular version of Salt.
As for acts I hadn’t seen before, I thought Pink Street Boys were every bit as exciting as I had been led to believe and as I expected from listening to their debut record. Muck are working in a genre that I’m not naturally drawn to, I doubt I’d ever listen to them at home, but their show (directly before Pink Street Boys and then Ghostigital on the first night) was hugely enjoyable and helped restore my flagging energy at that point, there sure was some seriously fast drumming happening.
Everyone was talking about Reykjavíkurdætur It’s pretty easy to assume that a 21 piece hip-hop collective who have appeared from nowhere (it seems) over the last few months would be a bit of a novelty act, but there is some serious talent there both in the rhyming and the presentation. I was very impressed not least by their ad-libbing whilst waiting for a member to arrive at their bookstore show. Final mention here is for Icelandic/UK three-piece band Dream Wife who definitely displayed enough confidence and potential to keep an eye on from now on.
Finally for the local acts, I am so glad I made my way across town to see and off-venue show by Hafdis Huld who I had not seen for 4 or 5 years. She has such a lovely manner on stage; she’s as funny between songs as she is engaging during them. It was so good to hear some older favourites (Action Man for example) amongst some newer and unfamiliar ones. Later in her show she was joined on stage by her insistent young daughter who totally stole the show, toddling around and holding mummy’s hand while she sang. I loved it. I was missing my kids OK!
Then there is that other Iceland Airwaves phenomenon of the surprising overseas band that you can happen across and fall in love with. The big win here was Ezra Furman who I thought was utterly superb. His show was the last thing we saw at the festival, in the early hours of Sunday morning just before we spilled out of Iðnó to be greeted by some of the best northern lights I have seen during an Airwaves. We had heard Ezra at Bar 11 (which still smells awful) the previous day and been impressed – we hadn’t seen him as we couldn’t actually get into the venue, so to end the festival at his main show was perfect and his energy and craftsmanship sent us home on a huge high. Oh, plus the northern lights were on good form as we exited from Iðnó.
Other overseas visitors that I adored were Seattle band La Luz with their chilled and surf-rocky set in the reliably excellent (and always packed) KEX hostel, and French band La Femme whose excellent Harpa show we ran to having decided that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard were less fun than their name might suggest. This was a good decision.
There were regrets too, which is pretty unavoidable when seeing one band generally involves missing ten.
Leaving on Sunday morning meant I didn’t see the Zebra Katz show that I would otherwise have prioritised and I missed the chance of a third Ghostigital show of the week which would have been a pleasure! Amongst others I was particularly disappointed to miss out on seeing were EMBASSYLIGHTS including members of Prins Póló and some seriously talented Canadian musicians, Kiasmos – the new project featuring Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen of Bloodgroup and The Town Heroes and their insanely catchy Canadian-ness. So yes, out of the five non-Icelandic acts I recommended I managed to only see two.
I guess that’s the terrible thing about Iceland Airwaves, there is always so much wonderfulness happening, you miss out on some wonderful. See you in 2015 yes?