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Music
Review
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Mike Pollock: Universal Routes

Published August 29, 2012

Something of a legend on the Reykjavík scene since the punk era, Mike Pollock seems to stake his claim as king of the blues too, as he rambles around from Congo Square to Amsterdam, searching for love or whiskey. “Walking” and “Searching” set the tone while “You tore me up but you won’t tear me down” is as good a breakup/hangover statement as any. The original tracks stand their ground, but the album peaks midway through with a groggy rendition of “Voodoo Chile,” followed by the Megas’ collaboration “Mary” and a slow, wistful spin on his own classic “It’s A Shame,” which was last heard 30 years ago with his punk group Utangarðsmenn. After all the sadness and desperation rendered by an outsider who has given his life to rock and roll, the old chestnut “Sunnyside” provides welcome relief at the end. Even if the packaging might seem a bit homemade, this is well worth the price of admission. Mike is truly timeless.


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EP

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What Kvöl’s new EP lacks in musicality is made up for in character. The Reykjavík-based post-punk band, which counts noted “Salvation Soldier” Þórir Georg as a member, released their hazy four-song debut this past July. The album is dark and New Wave in aesthetic, constituted by programmed 808-style drumbeats; groggy, doubled guitar lines; and indistinct lead vocals. The reverb is cavernous and plentiful, yet analogue in nature. The occasional synth pad makes an appearance, grounded by bass lines that sound as if they were played through a guitar into broken recording equipment. Each of the EP’s four songs bear meaningful

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Grúska

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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

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BÖRN

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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

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Hugar

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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

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47

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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

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Home

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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

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