For our contribution to the Grapevine’s annual Best of Reykjavík issue, we reflect on the best of the Icelandic music scene in 2015, so far…
Best summer jam: Jón Þór’s “Stelpur”
“Stelpur” (“Girls”) is an up-tempo guitardriven number about being wasted in Reykjavík, searching for some love at the bar. It’s part Supergrass, part Weezer, part Mac DeMarco, and 100% pure Icelandic summer hookup jam. It’s bound to be a theme song for bright nights, feelings of anxiety and intoxicated bliss. The jangly guitar riff sets the mood and the chorus, with its oh-so-sweet “Ohh la la la” female backing vocals, cinches it as an ultimate summer anthem.
Best Berlin techno club in Iceland: Hel at Secret Solstice
Hel is an old Icelandic word for Hell and it’s a well-known fact that Satan is bound to be a better after-party host than the bearded guy upstairs. At the Secret Solstice festival, the Icelandic ice skating rink (sans ice) was turned into a pitch-black vortex with a single neon light halo hovering over the DJ. It was a place where every bass drum sucked you deeper and deeper into a black hole of trance-inducing tribal ceremonies of the ancient past, where the rift between body and soul faded away, where people surrendered to the beat in the comfort of darkness, where nobody was judged and indulgence was a virtue.
Best 80s revival EP: Buspin Jieber’s ‘We Came As We Left’
In March, the Icelandic electronic-loving label Raftónar put out a tremendous EP from local producer Buspin Jieber called ‘We Came As We Left’. Buspin Jieber is Iceland’s answer to the American producer Com Truise, sharing his love for the 80s and a take on a celebrity name. Our favourite tracks are the opener “Joyrides and Girls” and closer “The Dream.”
Best outdoor concert: FKA twigs at Secret Solstice
Everything about FKA twigs that evening was a work of art—from her light purple one-piece to her modern dance moves to her incredible force of a voice. The band played ultra-current beats and melodies on custom-made instruments in a lively way that’s seldom seen in electronic music. FKA twigs is the empress of musical modernity and has sound and vision in abundance.
Best electronic album: Tonik Ensemble’s ‘Snapshots’
Local electronic wizard Anton Kaldal released his first album as Tonik Ensemble (formerly Tonik) on February 10. The album, ‘Snapshots’, is a colourful blend of electronic beats, live and electronic instruments and beautiful vocals with a brilliant underwater techno feel. It’s our favourite Icelandic electronic album of the year so far.
Best r’n’b slow jam: Vagina Boys’ “Elskan af því bara”
“Elskan af því bara” (“Baby, just because”) is a wonderfully bittersweet r’n’b jam painted with 80s-sounding drum machines and warm synth pads. The icing on the cake is the vocals, which have layers upon layers of autotune and vocoder effects tweaked in all sorts of unexpected ways. Smack in the middle of irony and sincerity, it’s tailor-made for an after-party of two.
Best concert we’re ashamed to admit we liked: Skrillex at Sónar
Skrillex is worshipped by the Spring Break-hungry youth and loathed by bitter old chin-stroking self-proclaimed experts like ourselves. However, we thought Skrillex’s show at Sónar was a carpetbombing on the senses and the explosive energy and joy was undeniable. Bass drops, graphics, lasers and smoke were pumped in your face every split second so you couldn’t analyse a thing before a new stimulus was heading your way. He even threw Björk, the ‘Star Wars’ theme and the Icelandic flag into his set for good measure while he jumped around and on top of his gadget table. We were too old for this shit, but liked it nonetheless.
Óli Dóri and Davíð Roach document the local music scene and help 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.