When asked to make this list I started with a nostalgic list that reminded me of my first trip to Iceland in 2006, where I blew all my money at 12 Tónar. My nepotistic second was a compilation of hits by my friends released during summer 2009. I finally whittled it down to this list of gloomy songs by people I’m honoured to call mentors and collaborators—and one song that brought me back to life.
Kvöl – We Are Nothing
The couple now known as the hardcore duo ROHT had a brief foray into minimal post-punk, which I sorely miss. This synthy angsty track is quintessential 80s goth rock realness and just the stuff of self-effacing black adorned sad sacks.
Singapore Sling – Martian Arts
I was introduced to the band quite randomly through an ex-boyfriend who had once opened for them in Ottawa, playing in a band called The Expatriates. I am now an expatriate and I get to see these guys sulk around town like grumpy aliens.
Kælan Mikla – Glimmer og Aska
This slow-building melancholic dirge conjures so much visual beauty. Every time I hear it I’m transported back to my 14-year-old bedroom with midnight blue walls, silk scarves, red lightbulbs and incense filling the air.
Current 93 & HÖH – The Dream of the Shadow of Smoke
While Current 93 is not an Icelandic band, the album this song comes from, ‘Island’, was co-written and produced by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, (composer and Ásatrúifélagið high priest) recorded at Studio Sýrland, and boasts an Icelandic crème de la crème in its credits. It’s a dreamy, soaring, ethereal incantation.
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Fordlândia – Aerial View
I will always hold a particular softness in my heart for JJ’s concept album about Henry Ford’s failed Fordlândia settlement project. I used this track for a choreography in my early 20s and spent four minutes slowly rolling on the ground. I wish I could dance like that on djammið.
Valgeir Sigurðsson – Past Tundra
The slow burn and mounting tension of this song is gripping. The increasing pace and instrumental layering that culminates in a grand mal sonic panic attack always makes me have one big George Michael Bluth cough-sob right at the end.
Godchilla – 1064°
Probably my favourite song to dance to of any active Reykjavík band, this surf-sludge banger is a loud, screechy, warbly, satanic jam fit for a sexy and scary chase scene in a Russ Meyer movie. I get to peak hip-twisting around three beers in.
Þórir Georg – Ekki Neitt
This stalwart, prolific, yet highly underrated musician has an output that makes a lot of his peers shit their pants. This track comes off a gothy af album called Janúar from 2015 that is as bleak, dark and depressing as the namesake month.
Sigur rós – Svefn-g-Englar
A month after I turned 15, my fallopian tube burst without my knowledge. I haemorrhaged for two weeks and was eventually rushed into emergency life-saving surgery. While I slept post-op, my mother put my headphones in my ears and ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ in my Discman. I opened my eyes at dawn, seeing the sun shining on the hospital’s red bricks, listening to this song. It was a decent start to my second life.