So, we didn’t end up doing nearly as much off-venue Airwavesing this year—homework, and other work, and sleeping demands being as they were—but we did get out for a good run of shows on Friday afternoon and evening, and I popped out for a last one on Saturday during the day. Missed opportunity, perhaps you’ll say, but I wasn’t too fussed by it. There are a lot of bands that it would have been nice to see, many of them for the first time, but Reykjavík is a very musical little city and I think future opportunities will present themselves. For now, I’d like to present you with a short musical playlist from the shows we did get out to see, pretty much all of which I enjoyed.
But before the playlist, a few photos from the day:
1. Ólöf Arnalds
I love Ólöf Arnalds—her lilting, high voice, her “la-la” breakdowns, her super crisp pronunciations of all sorts of useful Icelandic sounds, her harp and musical arrangements, everything. (I have spent not a few hours listening to her song “Við og Við,” for one because it is a beautiful song, for two, because the way she pronounces “Allt,” definitively taught me the “ll” sound in Icelandic, and for three, because I’m not kidding about the awesome “la-la” breakdown.)
In advance of her new, English-language album, Ólöf has made her “Matador” EP available for free download here. I very much recommend it, but in the meantime, let’s enjoy her “Surrender,” from her forthcoming album, which just so happens to feature Björk.
We went over to see a number of sets at Harpa, and got there early enough to catch the end of Jara’s set, which was actually being held in a small boat in the harbor behind Harpa. It was cold and windy, but some delightful soul had put out big carafes of the thickest, richest, most delicious hot chocolate. We had to gulp it down pretty quick because the wind was threatening to blow it all over our faces, but it was still a pretty cozy accompaniment to Jara’s spare, reverby, sweet ‘n creepy songs. (She also did a sort of sheogaze cover of Lou Reed’s “Heroin,” surely not the only one that weekend, but a rather good one, I’d say.)
3. Apparat Organ Quartet
Our next show was that of Apparat Organ Quartet. A friend we ran into informed us AOQ is “Tilda Swinton’s favorite band,” which definitely makes sense somehow. Usually, the quartet is, well, a quartet, but this day, they were a trio—less their drummer because his baby boy had been born earlier that morning. So they were playing a set of “quiet lullabies for the baby.” It was still a really energetic show—particularly for one exclusively featuring keyboards and synths—and the guys obviously have a great sense of humor. (They turned on a tiny little spotlight at the end of the set, which waved back and forth across the crowd, who themselves were mostly seated on the floor in front of the band.
A typical show is quite epic, I’m told, with projections, and a special hand symbol that the band makes at the crowd and the crowd makes back at the band, and well, drums. To get the full effect, you can check out their full KEXP show (It’s a half hour set, but the first song should give you the gist if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing…I like the second song quite a bit, though—sort of an extra awesome and epic Nintendo soundtrack):
4. Elín Ey
We had actually arrived at this show to see Péter Ben, but the sets were running behind, so we got to see singer-songwriter Elín Ey first. She’s done a great cover of “Ekkert Mál,” a very well-known and popular song by Ragnhildur Gísladóttir (and the band Grýlunar), and on this evening she also did a cover of a Fleetwood Mac song, which I hated (because: Fleetwood Mac, not her), but Mark was quite pleased with. Then she performed a song which she and her mother had written the music for, using lyrics written by her (great?) grandmother. It was a short set, but a very well done one.
Here’s a live version of “Ekkert Mál,” just because I enjoy it so much:
4. Pétur Ben
Pétur Ben got his start as a music producer who has worked with some pretty big names, such as Mugison. He’s also a talented singer-songwriter in his own right, with poetic and interestingly phrased lyrics played over just a guitar.
Here’s the set he played in the tiny house in Austurvöllur last year, including songs from the album he just released this year (fully self-funded via a Karolina Fund crowdsourcing fundraiser, actually):
5. Boogie Trouble
We closed out our night with an Icelandic disco band known for their great cover of “Toxic” by Britney Spears, which I have to admit, really was a great cover. Boogie Trouble was energetic, joyful, had a great (ginger) lead singer, and had a little dancing fan club going crazy in the front. Pretty much everyone was boogying by the end, though, ourselves included. Super Fun.
A friend of mine recently became the manager for this band, a Canadian-Icelandic trio based in Reykjavík that play a sort of angular, experimental rock, or a post-punky/punk-punky east coast hardcore. I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up at the record store where they were playing on Saturday, but I got a really vibrant, energetic show, and was very glad to have seen them.
Here’s a track from one of their earlier albums, which they performed during their set:
So there you have it: a baker’s dozen of “new” music to go enjoy, and I hope you do.