So This is Christmas

Björgvín and Eyjólfur performing at a Christmas concert together. (Image via

Exams are over and it’s almost time for us to fly back to the US for what promises to be an absurdly (but not at all unexpectedly) warm Christmas. Like, 70F and sunny, guys. It’s going to be great. In the meantime, here is your weekly moment of Icelandic Christmas zen.

“Svona eru jólin”
Björgvin Halldórsson, Eyjólfur Kristjánsson, and the Öldutún School Choir

To set the scene as you’re listening, I refer to the description posted by YouTuber Strange-o-Rama on the video above:

I remember hearing this song as a little kid, sitting down on the Living room sofa and staring at the tree with all the presents under it and looking into the kitchen, where my dad was hard at work, preparing the Christmas Turkey. I looked out the window and all I saw was black. It was pitch black outside even though It was only about 17:20 in the evening. As I looked out the window…It suddenly began to snow. Little puffs of white slowly drifted down to the ground behind the window. What I felt at that moment, I can only describe as the spirit of Christmas itself. The complete and utter happiness, calmness and all around love I felt was overwhelming. I felt incredible. I hope you will find this feeling this year too. Have a merry christmas everyone.

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Merry Christmas (If I Feel Like It)

Well, December has begun and we’re all in full Christmas-mode here in Iceland. That is, when those of us who are at university aren’t studying for exams (I know, poor us).

Also, there was a magical snow storm last week, which added to the general atmosphere:

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But in between the snow-storming, the studying, and the examing, we’ve managed to get in a lot of seasonal candle-burning, cookie-baking, and Christmas music-listening.

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Dans, Dans, Dans!

Photo by Matthew Eisman, via The Reykjavík Grapevine

It’s a little belated now, but upon mentioning it in my ‘hi, I’m still here’ post a few days ago, I happened to realize that back at the end of September, I actually published my first cover story with The Grapevine. The story—a profile of two women who have worked really hard to build an authentic street dance culture here in Iceland—was a long time in the making and I was not only proud of how it came out, but also just really interested in the subjects themselves. So I think it’s worth sharing, even if it isn’t hot off the presses at this point.

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Better Lives, Uncommon Adventures

For those of you sitting at your desk and looking for something to get you to the end of Friday, may I submit the following for your consideration:

Firstly, the much-hyped (by me) first video in what may end up being a series for The Grapevine, “Uncommon Adventures,” went live this week. If you don’t actually believe that I’ve been doing this sea swimming thing, then here’s my real proof:

If you have ideas for future adventures or interesting people to meet here in Iceland, do share!

And now that you’re all focused and zen, post sea-dip, get yourself hyped again:

I am coming a bit late to the Páll Óskar partý, perhaps because the album of his I picked up at the library last year was distinctly not-dancey, and that was what I had been in the mood for. So I kind of gave up going through his extensive catalog. Which was obviously a mistake because there is nothing I don’t love about the song and video above (for “Better Life”). The choreographed musical dancing—and that dance! I am learning that dance—the huge, cartoon smiles, the piano on a truck, the crazy colors…Love it. Anyway, I was looking for something completely different on YouTube the other day and stumbled across this song because the universe is awesome sometimes, so you all get to reap the benefits.

(Also, there seems to be something in the Learning-Icelandic-Blogging-Water, because Hulda over at the Transparent Language Icelandic Language Blog included a link to the very same tune (with others) in her most recent post today. What can I say? It’s an amazing song.)

So happy weekend—Góða Helgi—everyone!

Music for Monday: Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant

So, thanks to a recent pillaging of the new music section at the city library, I ran across John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts. Grant is an American musician (formerly the lead singer of The Czars), but has been living in Reykjavík for several years. Pale Green Ghosts, which Grant worked on with Birgir Þórarinsson of GusGus, came out early last year.

I’ve really enjoy the full album and recommend checking out the whole thing. To get you started, here’s the video for the title track:

Five Songs + 1: A Short Little Airwaves Playlist

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:

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Svefnskýt and Geimþrá by Mammút

As promised, leading into Iceland Airwaves (which kicks off on Halloween), I have more Icelandic music for you. My obliging co-workers shared a number of bands with me last week, and I fell rather immediately in love with Mammút, a high-energy, female-fronted five-piece which runs breathlessly between a sort of 90s punk and melodic noise-rock. They also won the annual battle of the bands in 2004, and promise to be epically good live.


Svefnskýrt (which maybe means “Lucid Dreams”?)

Geimþrá (Space desire?)

Twinkle, Twinkle, Yellow, Red

I don’t know about you, but I had assumed that certain songs, like “Happy Birthday,” say, were immutable. Of course some of the words would be different in other languages, I thought, but the general gist would be the same. In some cases, such as with the above example, this has proven to be true. But I’m finding now that in some other cases, rather notable tunes are still sung in Iceland, but with very different lyrics.

In one of my lessons last week, I ran across the lyrics of “Gulur rauður grænn og blár,” which seemed, from the context, to be a popular kids’ song about colors. So I looked it up on YouTube, to find that yes, it is. What surprised me a little was that the tune was that of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

There are lots of little variations to this song on the interweb, but I enjoyed this young lady’s performance the most, partially because she pronounces the colors so emphatically. I’m not sure what the hand motions she’s attempting are, but they are The Cutest, so whatever.

In the event that you are really curious about the lyrical content, without the benefit of the rhyming, here goes:

Yellow, Red, Green, and Blue
Black, White, Violet
Brown, Pink, Banana

Orange—Satisfying/Quenching (this is a little pun here with the banana line, because “appelsína” is both the color orange, the fruit, and the juice)

Yellow, Red, Green, and Blue
Black, White, Violet

“Before” by Vök

Before you know it, it’ll be time for Iceland Airwaves here in Reykjavík. And while I am not terribly good at keeping up with the multitudes of up-and-coming talented-and-hot-young-musicians here, working at the Grapevine does, conveniently, give me a bit of a window into the music scene.

We’re working on our Airwaves issue at the moment, and so today I was introduced to the moody electro-stylings of the duo Vök (which means, as far as I know, “a hole in the ice.“) Vök just won the annual Músíktilraunir, or Battle of the Bands, in March, so while they only have three tracks on their Soundcloud page for the moment, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from them soon.

So, for your listening pleasure, I present their very catchy track, “Before.”

Góða Ferð!

As you read this, Mark and I are heading back to the US for the summer, not to return to Iceland until late August. Never fear, I have a lot of catch-up posts and photos to cover, so you won’t have to give up reading me ramble cold turkey. But for the time being, it seems only appropriate to leave Iceland with a (Björk) song.

Takk for the splendid year, Iceland. I’m already looking forward to next year.