A Grapevine service announcement BREAKING NEWS! Small Eruption Reported Northeast Of Bárðarbunga

Looking Back On Another Fine Year Of Music

Words by

Published January 15, 2010

We sorta abhor year-end lists over here at Grapevine HQ. At least when it comes to making them. That has always been a task, and whatever we’ve come up with in the past has in retrospect usually struck us as forced, rushed and ill thought out. Plus, being the ADD kids we are, we tend to change our minds every five minutes: “The Arcade who now? Fune-what? The best album of 2004 was totally Kanye West’s College Dropout. No, wait; it was Blood Brothers’ Crimes. Oh, forget it.”
ANYWAY, regardless of our feelings on the matter, year-end lists are always pretty popular, and we must admit we do enjoy perusing them as, ehrm, years end. They help one discover neglected gems, albums that passed by without a sound or one just plain never heard about, especially when those lists aren’t all uniform, vague and heavy on the U2. Fucking U2.
So we decided to compile some year-end lists of our own. And who better to consult about what’s going on in the world of music than the musicians themselves? No one, that’s who (at least since most critics all started regurgitating P4K’s listery)! So we went ahead and contacted some of Iceland’s finest musicians and asked them to write us lists on what had been tickling their ears all year.
You may imbibe the results of that in these following pages. Some musicians wrote a sentence or two about each item, some made fun lists of their favourite concerts or the best places to pick up girls, some numbered their lists, others refused to – it’s all in there.
And, yeah, we had our very own bunch of awesome music critics make up lists of their 2009 favourites, too (OK, we admit it, making lists can be sorta gratifying and fun. And no one consulted Pitchfork, swear to dog!).
In the immortal words of the great John Cage: Happy New Ears.

Bob Cluness
1) Ben Frost – By The Throat: This man has probably created the first true soundtrack of the Kreppa and possibly one of the most vital releases to come from Iceland in the past couple of years. And brave, honourable Iceland responded by trying to deport him! No wonder the poor bastard looks so pissed off all the time.
2) kimono – Easy Music For Difficult People: When I reviewed this, I don´t think I gave it justice as to how immediate this album is when you first listen to it. It´s truly a brilliant indie rock album.
3) Bloodgroup – Dry Land: They took their base electro sound and added several new levels of pop brilliance.
4) Sólstafir – Köld: Primordial, seething with epic aggression, and just sounded brilliant. This beat the crap out of all the other metal releases and took all their money for a laugh.
5) Sudden Weather Change – Stop! Handgrenade in the name of crib death ´nderstand?: Beating kimono to the worst album title of the year, they were full of infectious energy and punky enthusiasm. It just made me feel old listening to it!

Ragnar Egilsson
“I didn’t hear enough good Icelandic records in 2009 for a top 5. I can muster a top 3.”
1. Hildur Guðnadóttir – Without Sinking
2. Ben Frost – By The Throat
3. Kimono Easy Music For Difficult People

Sindri Eldon
#1: Plastic Gods – Quadriplegiac
Horrifying and tasteless, just what Iceland deserves.
#2: Foreign Monkeys – π
It rocked.
#3: TONIK – Form Follows
Solid as a cock.
#4: Weapons – A Ditch In Time
How could you not like this album?
#5: Retrön – Swordplay & Guitarslay
You need to turn it all the way up first, and then it will blow your mind.
#6: Úlpa – Jahilíya
I’m high right now just thinking about it.
#7: Egill S – Egill S
An album that can be both disappointing and excellent at the same time deserves mention.
#8: Hjaltalín – Terminal
Not as good as it should be, but not as bad as it could be.
#9:STEED LORD – Truth Serum
“I’m a dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty millionaire” – enough said.
#10: Agent Fresco – Lightbulb Universe
It’s very well organised.

Florian Zühlke
1) Sudden Weather Change – Stop! Handgrenade in the Name of Crib Death ‘nderstand?
I remember how impressed I was by their dissonant but huge post-core sound – first at Airwaves 2008 then on their record in the spring of 2009.
2) Muck – Vultures
A very good, dark and heavy hardcore/punk/metal record by a very young band that hopefully has its best to come.
3 ) Bob Justman – Happiness and Woe
I am still greatly enjoying the melancholic and touching, but never desperate, songs of Bob Justman. Elliot Smith’s successor seems to be Icelandic.  
4) Múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
There is nothing to complain about here: really nice Icelandic pop music.
5) AMFJ – Itemhljóð & Veinan
A dark, disturbing drone experiment – roaring and intriguing –rather than a classical record. On top there are cool electronic remixes.

Haukur S Magnússon
1. Summer As A Salvation Soldier – Nýtt EP
2. Ben Frost – By The Throat
3. Sudden Weather Change – Stop! Handgrenade In The Name Of Oppression & Alcohol
4. Hildur Guðna – Without Sinking
5. Go-Go Darkness – Go-Go Darkness
6. múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
7. Deathmetal Supersquad – Dead Zeppelin
8. Mugison – Ítrekun
9. Kimono – EM4DP
10. Snorri Helgason – I’m Gonna Put My Name On Your Door

Jóhannes Kjartansson
múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
Hjaltalín – Terminal
Sykur – Frábært eða Frábært
Tonik – Form Follows
dj. flugvél og geimskip – Rokk & róleg lög

Bob Cluness
1) The Horrors – Primary Colours: I was one of probably only 45 people who heard their 1st album (note: It was truly shit). This made it all the more remarkable that their follow up was so spectacular. Singlehandedly sparking the Krautrock revival and possibly the best guitar sounds since My Bloody Valentine.
2) Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport: the sound of a million angels off their face on E, in an Ibiza nightclub. On Mars….
3) Sunn o))) – Monoliths & Dimensions: the history of man from Neanderthal to space flight in four loud, apocalyptic stages.
4) Manatees – Icarus, the Sunclimber: Possibly one of the biggest HOPEKRUSHER albums I’ve heard in ages. Sounded so oppressive, it made my ears cry.
5) Zola Jesus: The Spoils: The best of the hypnagogic lo-fi pop to come from the US this year. Nika Danilova´s vocals sounded so haunted, like a ghostly apparition on fuzzy tape.

Ragnar Egilsson
1. HEALTH – Get Color
2. Girls – Album
3. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
4. Washed Out – Life Of Leisure
5. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
7. Nosaj Thing – Drift  
7. Hudson Mohawke – Butter  

Sindri Eldon
#1: Kent – Röd
Their best album ever? It’s quite possible.
#2: Silversun Pickups – Swoon
Where the nineties never end, but in a good way.
#3: Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavillion
Yeah, good choice Sindri, real fucking original.
#4: Sparks – The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman
The weirdness continues.
#5: Electric Six – Kill
The awesomeness continues.

Florian Zühlke
1) Thrice – Beggars
Thrice evolved into a very good alternative rock band long ago, even managing to record a set of concept EPs (The Alchemy Index) without becoming awkward. Beggars is their latest and catchiest album, it brings more exciting details with every listen – Epic!
2) Gallows – Grey Britain
Somehow I overlooked this amazing young band’s début two years ago, but Grey Britain’s raw, aggressive, honest hardcore punk made me a fan of these heavily tattooed Brits.  
3) Ruiner – Hell Is Empty
Hell is Empty is so emotional, so honest that it gives me shivers down my spine with every listen. This is how hardcore should sound, but doesn’t any more since Modern Life Is War split up.
4) Behemoth – Evangelion
Maybe the best Death / Black Metal band around – and fortunately a non-fascist one.
5) Rise and Fall – Our Circle is Vicious
Into Oblivion was evil, downtuned and good; Our Circle is Vicious, adds more experimentation, more variety and better songwriting to Rise and Fall’s metallic hardcore – and thus makes it one of my top five records 2009.

Haukur S Magnússon
1.Japandroids – Post-Nothing
2. Converge – Axe To Fall
3. Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall
4. jj – jj no 2
5. A Sunny Day In Glasgow – A Sunny Day In Glasgow
6. A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head
7. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue
8. Jay Z – III
9. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
10. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
11. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
12. Atlas Sound – Logos

Jóhannes Kjartansson
Tiga – Ciao
Data – Skywriter
Vitalic – Flashmob
Boys Noize – Power
Moderat – Moderat
Joakim – Milky Ways
The Whitest Boy Alive – Rules
Zombie Nation – Zombielicious
Jori Hulkkonen – Man From Earth
The Bloody Beetroots – Romborama
Fukkk Offf – Love Me Hate Me Kiss Me Kill Me
Kings of Convenience – Declaration of Dependence

Bob Cluness
Klink, Celestine and Retrön @ Dillon, Oct ´09: One of the few times recently that I’ve been truly terrified for my life. It was a truly mental moment of crushing live metal.
Mínus and HAM, Friday night @ Eistnaflug, July ´09: Was a great night for music but I don´t remember much about that. This was because I performed my only Good Samaritan act of the year and acted as a human shield to two metal heads in wheelchairs so they could watch at the front of the crowd. They had a great time, while I got 500 moshers going all Drum and Bass on my kidneys and spine. For two hours. Refreshing!
In the rock/metal universe, you´re probably going to hear a lot from power trio Ghost Aircraft. They just released their debut album over Christmas and will probably be the standard bearers for that post hardcore sound in 2010. And the debut album by Severed Crotch should be lacerating our eardrums as well.
In the Electro world, 2010 sees the debut from Captain Fufanu, while Pedro Pilatus (the solo project of Retro Stefsson´s Logi Pedró) should be getting a lot more attention.
Finally look out for the debut release from Daníel Bjarnason in February 2010 from those folks at the Bedroom community. It will finally make you like neo-classical music. Honest, I swear!

Bergrún Anna Hallsteinsdóttir
Top 5 Artists To Watch In 2010
1. Ojba Rasta
2. Sykur
3. Ólafur Arnalds
4. Skelkur í bringu
5. Stereo Hypnosis

Ragnar Egilsson
“Make your own new next big thing in 2010 mix and match genre terms! Get your fix of the hottest prefixes and suffixes! Watch them take temporary root in 2010!”
Congratulations! You have now grown your very own musical chimera! Now unleash the beast on the world, watch it tear the blogworld apart for up to three weeks before it’s abominable heart is pierced with snark and it gives up the ghost on a ten minute special on BBC2.

<?php the_title(); ?>

Seven Icelandic Elf Songs

by and

“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

<?php the_title(); ?>

Neutral Milk Hotel Made Me Who I Am


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

<?php the_title(); ?>

Free Track: Prins Póló’s “París Norðursins”

by and

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

<?php the_title(); ?>

Parties Of The North

by and

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

<?php the_title(); ?>

Straumur: Best Of Music

by and

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

<?php the_title(); ?>

The Northern Edge Of The Scene


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

Show Me More!