Icelandic Music – Part III

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Okay, fine! I’ll admit it, I completely lost track of these groups that I initially made up. This one is supposed to be “rock,” but honestly the bands I have left are way more diverse than that. Woe is me! My solution in this case will be to simply modify the group name a bit. Please don’t send me angry letters, such as the example provided below:

“Dear Thor. I was casually going through my regular schedule of rummaging through the depths of the interweb when I stumbled onto your blog. “Oh dear me,” I thought, “what a delight! Rock is indeed my favorite genre of rhythmic tonal contraptions.” My delight was short-lived. You can scarcely imagine my utter despair when I discovered the extents of your fallacies. For several dark minutes, I stared into the bleak, piercing eyes of the beast that is “Lack of proper categorization of musical genres.” For this crime against humanity, I thoroughly hope your day will be bad. Also I hope you bump into a low coffee table, and hit your shin really hard.

Sincerely,

Ned.

I made that up, but I feel like those guys are always named Ned. Just like all the bros, that fist bump and wear their caps backwards, are all named Jeff. Ned is the kind of guy who reads the news with the sole intention of finding grammatical errors, just so he can send the editors angry emails about it. This particular Ned, I imagine, also owns a cat. The cat is equally arrogant. Let’s commence.

Part III – Rock and other music with sounds

Agent Fresco

Agent Fresco is part prog-rock and part alt-rock, with heavy influences from jazz and funk, and a characteristic polyrhythmic style. That’s a mouthful, I know, but listen to their debut album through and it will all make perfect sense. If you end up going to the Iceland Airwaves music festival someday (which of course you all are), I cannot stress how important it is that you see these guys live. Their songs are so instantly catchy that without exception the crowd will start singing along with the chorus. Not just the few old guys that got too drunk at Burnt out Classic Rock Band concerts and annoyingly blurt out the lyrics, but literally the whole crowd. I’ve seen them many times, and as great as the big, loud concerts are, my favorites are the acoustic ones they do off-venue each year at Iceland Airwaves. They go all-out on the acoustic thing, even abandoning microphones.

If you end up giving any of the bands I’ve mentioned a try, I really hope you pick Agent Fresco. Find their album (gogoyoko.com is a great place to start), listen to it all the way through and then tell me what you think. Listen to the transition from hard, rhythmic prog-rock to slow, hauntingly beautiful piano ballads. If you don’t like this, you’re probably broken. I hope you kept the receipt.

As much as this will probably push some people away, I’ll also include a video of them playing a song at Iceland Airwaves 2011. Notice how the crowd responds and takes part in the song towards the end. That’s amazing.

Hjaltalín

Hjaltalín draws its influences from many genres, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just call them indie. The band is fronted by a strong male/female vocal duo, the male singer being the charismatic Högni (previously mentioned in relation to Gus Gus). This post is getting way to long, so I’ll just let the music speak for this one. This is Hjaltalín performing with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra in 2010.

Of Monsters and Men

You might actually have heard this band on the radio without noticing it. Their song, Little Talks from their debut album My Head is an Animal, has gained popularity fantastically fast. No wonder, really, it’s ridiculously catchy. They’ve been described as the Icelandic Mumford and Sons and even “the new Arcade Fire” in the Rolling Stone Magazine. Big words, certainly, but not far off. The songs are big, fun and the kind of catchy that just impregnates your mind with humming for days on end.

Notable mentions

Hjálmar

It’s an Icelandic reggae band. They’re fantastic. There’s really nothing more to say about this one. They have a big repertoire of fantastic songs, but the one I’ve included below is one of my all-time favorites. It’s one of those songs that make me want to sit in the dark with my headphones on, just swaying my head along with the rhythm.

Mammút

Mammút is a young, mostly female band. What definitely sets them apart is the eccentric, strong vocal style of the lead singer.

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