Published December 3, 2004
When you slip the lyrics “but your bad sense of humour and your laughter’s like a tumour to my brain,” into a song you deserve to sell a couple albums (and probably a kick to the groin too). On his debut album, “I believe in this,” Þórir has penned more than a few priceless zingers using the scarred wit of that loneliest of individuals: the literate teenager. Having seen reactions to his live shows, I am sure this album will find an audience.
“I believe in this,” does have its flaws, though. The stunner for me is the vocal stylings: Þórir performs most of the album in nervous staccato mutters. Live, this has been charming. But to hear it recorded, it sounds affected. Especially as through the whole album, one notices he has a significant range and decent strength in his voice, most pronounced in the middle registers. Look, we know the kid can play guitar and write songs, so the coy delivery sounds like a mistake.
This brings us to the most fantastically bad idea of the album: a cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” sung in nervous breakdown drone. When performed live, I attributed this to a one-time error in judgement. The cover saps the energy from the song, at the same time hinting at the shtick that perhaps all the work on the album is only important because it is whined, that maybe if we just listened to pop music we’d get more of our money’s worth.
Despite these errors, (and if you’re a collector of first albums, maybe because of them), “I believe in this” is worth the mortgage you have to take out to buy an Icelandic cd. Þórir places himself strongly in the tradition of the great college indie music of the last decade: the rhymes and the tone are reminiscent of Eliot Smith, Pedro the Lion, and, most obviously, Isaac Brooks of Modest Mouse. (Whether the naming of the song “This is a long drive for someone with to (sic) much to think about” crosses the line from homage to plagiarism of Modest Mouse’s masterpiece “This is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about” is open to debate.)
However, and this points to Þórir’s future, the most marked difference between this young Icelandic songwriter and his influences is that he seems to have greater training or skill in playing guitar and picking out vocal melodies. When he relaxes and sings them, he may lose some indie cred, but his music will sound a good deal more authentic.