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Seven Icelandic Elf Songs

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“Álfareiðin” (“The Elf Ride”) “Álfareiðin” is one of Iceland’s most beloved elf-themed songs, and is sung by a bonfire every year at Þrettándinn (“the Twelfth Night”—celebrated by Icelanders every January 6). The song is actually not Icelandic at all: the lyrics are a translation, by fabled Icelandic poet Jónas Hallgrímsson, of a Heinrich Heine poem, and the song is by German composer H. Heide. Regardless, it is by now an indispensable part of Icelanders’ cultural heritage. “Starálfur”—Sigur Rós Apparently, there are certain elements to Sigur Rós’ music that tend to make their listeners associate the band with elves and Hidden

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Neutral Milk Hotel Made Me Who I Am

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You are born. Not until a couple years later do you start to become a person, in the most rudimentary sense. It’s still not for quite a few years that you start to become your own person. Or perhaps it starts off okay, but as soon as you begin examining the world beyond yourself and your family, society’s homogenizing forces take hold of you. You don’t stand a chance. Culture is monopolized. When I was growing up in southern California in the ‘90s, the musical landscape, as I remember it, consisted almost entirely of pop punk, ska punk, and whatever

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Free Track: Prins Póló’s “París Norðursins”

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You won’t find Prins Póló’s unexpected summer hit “París norðursins” (“Paris Of The North”) on the act’s recent LP ‘Sorrí’ (‘Sorry’). Written and recorded specifically for the purpose, the song features in a highly anticipated film of the same name, which hits theatres in early September and should be pretty great if the Prince’s contribution is anything to go by. The track’s steadily humming, upbeat bass line is accompanied with occasional keys and distorted guitar segments, all wrapped up in a fun and danceable package. Hiding behind that cheerful façade are lyrics that explore a recurring bitter theme in Icelandic

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Parties Of The North

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Following a tremendously successful All Tomorrow’s Parties festival (ATP), the organisers have announced the headliner for next year’s fest, indie stalwarts Belle and Sebastian. We were lucky enough to see them the last time they visited Iceland, when they rocked the packed NASA venue in 2006, and can’t wait to see them again in the unique setting at Ásbrú. ATP is one of the best new phenomena to grace our musical horizon in quite some time. The abandoned military base is a perfectly outlandish setting for a festival that focuses on diverse alternative music. The execution of the festival was

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Straumur: Best Of Music

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Best album: GusGus’s ‘Mexico’ The greats of Icelandic dance music, GusGus, have yet to slip up in their almost two decade long career and they certainly don’t do so on their latest album, ‘Mexico.’ They continue to explore the sonic terrain of their last album, ‘Arabian Horse,’ a sound that is not in any way minimal, but extremely economical. But that would be for nothing if it weren’t for the melodies and singers. Vocalist Daníel Ágúst has particularly outstanding performances in “Crossfade” and “Sustain” and former member Urður Hákonardóttir shines on standout track, “Another Life.” But they also hark back

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The Northern Edge Of The Scene

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If you were to read about Icelandic music in the press, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that all we listen to up here all day is a continuous loop of FM Belfast, Ásgeir, and Sigúr Rós, while employing secret cloning technology to keep our cultural industries stuffed full of post-rock non-entities and ethereal pop ninnies that sport woollen ponchos, face paint, and feather headdresses. Frankly that sort of stuff would send a sane person round the bend. Oh, but reader there are much wilder sounds on this Island if you know where to look! From black metal, to feminist

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