Dedicated múm fans can reach for their wallets with the release of their compilation ‘Early Birds,’ a fifteen track retrospective comprised entirely of B-sides and previously unreleased work dating from the band’s early period, between 1998 and 2000. múm was formed in 1997 by Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þ. Smárasson and they were later joined by twins, Kristín and Gyða Valtýsdóttir. ‘Early Birds’ is a tribute to these early years and the work—raw and varied in nature—that they begat. Though there is a very definite melodic thread running through the music on ‘Early Birds’, the compilation is a varied one; evidence of the depth of the band’s varied interests as they were starting out. It begins on a vibrant and upbeat note, and retains that eclectic, bubbly sound throughout. The later pieces move into more familiar territory with the slow, emotive sound that múm became known for. There is a decided progression throughout the album, with the peppiness of the start comfortably ironed out into the more sweeping depth of the later tracks. The playful attitude of a band that was in its early years willing to try anything once makes ‘Early Birds’ definitely worth a listen.
From start to finish, Grúska Babúska’s wobbly, otherworldly self-titled debut is a pleasure to experience. There is something definitively narrative and theatrical about the ten-song collection, whose eclectic instrumentation includes flute, ukulele, guitar, synth, melodica, music box and a range of pitched percussion. The theatrical nature of the record derives from the constant starting, stopping, and resetting that punctuates each of the songs, resulting in a rare disturbing—yet captivating—listening experience. The arrangements are masterfully crafted, and chaotically layered without feeling crowded or pretentious. The record’s opening track, “Slagarinn,” begins with a minimal synth line, building in texture and dynamic with
BÖRN’s self-titled début is what some of us have been desperately waiting for: an album that properly echoes the misery of living in Reykjavík. Unlike mediocre bands who sing their happy tunes in broken English—with heavy doses of repetitive claps and heys!—BÖRN manage to portray Reykjavík as it really is. It’s neither cute nor civilized; it is in fact a typical Icelandic podunk backwater town (“krummaskuð”) on steroids. Gray, wet and windy. This Reykjavík death punk band initially called themselves NORN (“WITCH”), and in 2011 released a self-titled cassette of some rather noteworthy tunes. When a local black metal band
I found myself six tracks into Hugar’s self-titled instrumental debut before realizing that the first song had ended. This could mean one of two things: either the lack of lyrical stimulation reaching my brain sent me into an inert mental state, or the neo-classical duo, consisting of producer-instrumentalists Bergur Þórisson and Pétur Jónsson, has achieved the type of cohesion that we are so rarely afforded in today’s single-obsessed musical dominion. I choose the former. The band’s website explains that after “many years in all kinds of different bands,” the two of them started putting together demos in 2012 that eventually
Japanese Super Shift’s ’47’ is an unexpectedly emotional album. The record, which marks the newest creation from producer-instrumentalist Stefnir Gunnarsson, offers a healthy mix of dance-y instrumentals and mature, lyrical songs, representing a multifaceted album that feels as though it could fuel an entire evening, from the first drink to the sombre walkhome. The lyrics are thoughtful and well-crafted, and a comforting break from what we have been trained to expect from contemporary electronic music. Stefnir’s production chops begin to warm up four tracks into the album with “Voxotronic,” a nearly four-minute epic of drum-and-bass-heavy lurching, reminiscent of something a
With several albums under her belt, two No. 1 singles on the Icelandic music charts, and world touring with Gusgus as a teen, Hafdís Huld has a lot of previous musical experience to draw upon. She’s nearing her mid-thirties now, but has that certain Icelandic agelessness about her. Hafdís’s solo album `Home’ is a simple collection of original folk songs and lullaby-like tunes arranged and orchestrated by the singer’s partner, Alisdair Wright. The warmer, more densely arranged tracks on the album are the most effective and, with a reverberant piano, guitars and percussion, all very radio-friendly. A ukelele even makes
Gusgus didn’t seem like a band that was in it for the long haul. Starting as a loosely strung collective of musicians, filmmakers, producers and vocalists, they seemed to the outsider like a mercurial proposition—a bubbling experimental formula with equal potential to expand, evaporate or explode. But after nine studio albums made over almost two dec-ades, Gusgus would be an essential inclusion on the Periodic Table of Icelandic Bands. They’ve not only continued, but thrived, recently coming into a run of form so rich as to become happily confounding. Along the way, they’ve shed skins more times than an old