Published July 24, 2014
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 to the sounds of their grittier “Forever” period on the instrumental title track whose monstrous bass synth mutates throughout the song, merging melody and rhythm into an unstoppable sonic beast. In “God Application” they also experiment with modern R&B textures with impressive results. Still got it.
Funniest Lyrics: Prins Póló’s “Hamstra Sjarma”
Nobody in Iceland writes lyrics quite like Prins Póló. Their song “Hamstra Sjarma” (“Hoarding Charm”) is a witty blend combining stream of consciousness with food and surreal humour. In this gem of a song he asks the listener whether it’s possible to hoard charm, and if it’s something you can put into a schwarma. It’s impossible to listen without a grin on your face and at least a little bit chuckling. We laughed hard.
Best Song From “Another” Decade: Boogie Trouble’s “Steinnunn”
Every second of “Steinunn” is dripping with the sounds of late ‘70s disco, from the rollicking bass line and chicken scratch wah-wah guitars to the velvety soft keyboards. The cheerful trading of lines between male and female vocals on the chorus make Boogie Trouble the rightful heir to famed Icelandic disco band Þú og Ég.
Best Summer Jam: Grísalappalísa’s “ABC”
The first single from Grísalappalísa’s sophomore album started our summer with a bang. It’s a short romp boasting an up-tempo beat with layers of saxophones and buckets of bounce that reminds us quite a bit of English ska band Madness. It has tons of sunshine and parties crammed into its 2:22 runtime and the chorus asks the listener to join in on the good times.
Most Foreign Sounding Song: Myndra’s “Distant Lover”
When you hear the beginning of “Distant Lover” from the three-piece indie band Myndra you get the felling you’re listening to a brand new song from indie veterans The Decemberists. Led by the Icelandic singer-songwriter and guitarist Linus Orri, Myndra is a band with a universal sound and a fantastic album out called ‘Songs From Your Collarbone.’
“Ever Ending Never” from M-Band is from the brilliant ‘Haust’ album. It sounds like a cross between Jon Hopkins and GusGus at their best. With a haunting vocal build around a repetitive bouncing synth line, the song takes you to a world of its own. A perfect tune to get your weekend started.
Best Day For A Hazy Day At The Beach: Pretty Please’s “100kg”
Best New Concert Venue: Húrra
Since Húrra opened its door in May a single week has not gone by without something spectacular happening inside the venue. Húrra has become a melting pot for the best music within the Icelandic scene. We have seen great hip hop, indie, electro and rock artist grace the stage. A mid-sized concert venue in the heart of the city is just what we needed.
The dirty rocking “Kick The Trash Out” by Pink Street Boys is a heavyily disroted fusion of garage rock and modern punk. Every note of the song is played with intense raw emotion that viciously attacks your ears and assaults your heart.
Best Concert At Abandoned Military Base:
Portishead’s performance at All Tomorrow’s Parties in a crammed airplane hanger was an audiovisual blast of hydrogen proportions. The sound was perfect with every drum sound tailor made for each song, and the accompanying visuals were impeccable with a live feed of the band drenched in trippy filters mixed with pre-made videos warped on the huge screen behind them. Highlights include, but were in no way limited to, Beth Gibbon’s voice acting as a human theremin, Geoff Barrow’s turntable scratch solo in “Over,” the goose bump-inducing Rhodes chords opening the first song of their encore, “Roads,” and the ’60s psychedelic video accompanying “Rip.”
Straumur has been active since last summer, with writers Óli Dóri and Davíð Roach documenting the local music scene and helping people discover new music at straum.is. It is associated with the radio show Straumur on X977, which airs every Monday evening at 23:00.