In 2001 Icelandic hip hop exploded with the genre’s first (and last?) super selling masterpiece, the XXX Rottweiler Hundar’s self-titled debut. Simple yet cool beats and impudent and fresh lyrics spewed out by what appeared to be a gang of street urchins had everyone take notice, even the masses, who favoured the mesmerising ballad ‘Bent Nálgast’. A bit of rap frenzy followed in Rottweiler’s wake, with a great supply of Icelandic rap albums seeing release over the next few years. However, nothing in Icelandic hip-hop has ever matched the impact of Rottweiler’s debut album.
In 2002, Sigur Rós finally followed up 1999’s ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ with the grey and slow “brackets” album. In the interim Sigur Rós had become international indie super- stars, playing to packed concert halls the world over. Expectations were naturally high and they were met, kind of, except that the impact of surprise was lost. This time Jónsi wasn’t in the mood to write any lyrics, or even name the songs, so he sang English and Icelandic word-similitudes—memorably the Icelandic likeness of “I am a sea-lion” in the first song—giving birth to the “hopelandish” hogwash. Sigur Rós were onwards to more international acclaim and countless reviews likening their songs to “melting glaciers”.
In 2003, rock quintet Mínus hit the artistic jackpot with their experimental hard rock masterpiece named after Iceland’s beloved Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness. This was Mínus’ third album and with noise magician Curver on their side, the band members—on a creative streak—just did whatever the hell they wanted. The album is the opposite of conservatism and normalcy, still as crisp and exciting today as it was seven years ago.
In 2004, electric troubadour Mugison be- came a smash hit with his second album, the sloppy but tight, very experimental and flippant ‘Mugimama Is This Monkeymusic?’ Mugison had already made a name for himself with his debut album, ‘Lonely Mountain’, released the year before, but now nobody had to second-guess his brilliance. Made in solitude in West fjord village of Súðavík, the album is adventurous and full of both fluffy and chunky bits.
In 2005, England based Emiliana Torrini hit a true chord with her ‘Fisherman’s Woman’. The singer/ songwriter had tried a more complex pop with computerised dance-beats on her ‘Love in the Time of Science’ album in 1999 (her debut if you don’t count her earlier cover-albums made in Iceland), but now she was all hushed down, sincere and minimalistic, relying mostly on a trusty acoustic guitar for support. Dealing with emotions stemming from the death of a loved one, Emiliana made a heartfelt masterpiece.
In 2006 we were warming up to 2007, the year of total gluttony. Everybody was apparently going along with the money flow, except Pönkbandið Fjölnir (“Fjölnir, the Punk Band”) who came out of nowhere to make their sole masterpiece ‘Sonur Neyslusamfélagsins Var Hér’ (or: “The Consumer Society’s Son Was Here”). Of course few took notice of the angry but smart punk rock and likewise angry and smart lyrics, so Fjölnir vanished without a trace. Even now I don’t know what people were in this band but listening to the album still makes me feel strangely joyous.
In 2007 Sprengjuhöllin (“The Bomb Palace”) came forth with ‘Tímarnir Okkar’ (“Our Times”), which, true to its title, tried and succeeded in speaking popwise to “the times”. Sounding as clever as Jarvis Cocker of Pulp in his prime—or Stuðmenn and Spilverk þjóðanna in their prime – Sprengjuhöllin saved demanding listeners from the lyrical doldrums of almost everything else at the time. The music was fine indie pop and the band flew to the knoll of Icelandic pop-dom with the wistful breakup song ‘Verum í sambandi’.
In 2008 FM Belfast were all about having fun on their super jolly ‘How To Make Friends’. The music came out of Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson’s computers with his girlfriend and friends singing and jumping around. “We come from a place where we count the days until nothing, nothing, nothing…” is an unlikely party-anthem, but such is the charm of FM Belfast.
2009 brought Hjaltalín with their second album, ‘Terminal’. Showing great promise on their debut album two years earlier, Högni Egilsson and his gang now delivered a complex and ambitious album totally living up to expectations. Hjaltalín play melodic and finely crafted pop songs, often sounding grand and ornamented, like it should be a James Bond movie title track.
In 2010 Retro Stefson’s second album ‘Kimbabwe’ showed a band busting at the seams with creative joie de vivre. Not shy of doing whatever they felt like, Retro Stefson’s merry boys (and girl) mixed heavy metal with disco, indie pop with afro beats, and so on. The tightness of the band and the cleverness of how the band approaches the music is quite amazing as the members are (almost) still in their teens.
Reading the above one can infer that all types of music were going on in this decade of constantly evolving rock and pop music. Obviously, the evolution has slowed down though, almost to a halt. All the ingredients are in the pot— the stew is just constantly being stirred. The music made in 2010 could have been made in 2001, and vice versa. The music is not going anywhere particular, so you might as well sit back, relax and enjoy. Maybe this century’s first de- cade will have some kind of collective “sound” in retrospect—just like “sixties- music” or “eighties-music”—but as of now, I just can’t pin it down. Future generations might hear it though.
Dr. Gunni’s Best Albums Of The Decade
XXX Rottweiler hundar – XXX Rottweiler hundar
Trabant – Moment Of Truth
Björk – Vespertine
Úlpa – Mea Culpa Funerals – Pathetic Me
Sigur Rós –( )
Apparat Organ Quartet – Apparat Organ Quartet
Móri – Móri
múm – loksins erum við engin
Búdrýgindi – Kúbakóla
Mínus – Halldór Laxness
Skytturnar – Illgresið
Maus – Musick
Botnleðja – Iceland National Park
Bang Gang – Something Wrong
Mugison – Mugimama is this monkeymusic?
Singapore Sling – Life Is Killing My Rock’N’Roll
Jan Mayen – Home Of The Free Indeed
Pornopop – And The Slow Songs About The Dead Calm In Your Hands
Quarashi – Guerilla Disco
Emilíana Torrini – The Fisherman’s woman
Trabant – Emotional
Ég – Plata Ársins
Sigur Rós – Takk
Siggi Ármann – Music For The Addicted
Pönkbandið Fjölnir – Sonur neyslusamfélagsins var hér
Eberg – Voff voff
Reykjavík! – Glacial Landscapes, Religion, Oppression And Alcohol
Pétur Ben – Wine For My Weakness
Benni Hemm Hemm – Kajak
Sprengjuhöllin – Tímarnir okkar
Megas – Frágangur / Hold er mold
Ólöf Arnalds –Við og við
Mugison – Mugiboogie
FM Belfast – How to Make Friends
Morðingjarnir – Áfram Ísland!
Lay Low – Farewell Good Night’s Sleep
Dr. Spock – Falcon Christ
Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Hjaltalín – Terminal
Bloodgroup – Dry Land
Dikta – Get It Together
Kimono – Easy Music For Diffficult People
Caterpillarmen – Adopt a monkey
Retro Stefson – Kimbabwe
Jónsi – Go
Apparat Organ Quartet- Pólýfónía
BlazRoca – Kópacobana
Agent Fresco – A long time listening