As the year draws to a close, music journalists, bloggers and critics are starting to draw up their end-of-year-lists of their favourite albums in the preceding 12 months. The annual Kraumur Awards, now in its 11th year, is traditionally one of the first to appear; their longlist—which seeks to reward “Quality, Ambition & Originality”—is a harbinger of the “Best of 2018” frenzy that will soon follow.
The Kraumur awards dish out support (i.e. hard cash—the amounts change from year to year) to six ultimate winners, drawn from a longlist decided by a jury of esteemed members of the music industry and media, including a cross-section of journalists, DJs, bookers, festival workers and people generally found neck-deep in Icelandic music scene.
Old and new favourites
This year, there are 21 contenders from all areas of the Icelandic music scene. Many of them are favourites of ours that you may have read about in the pages of the Grapevine this year, such as the “Íslando-disco” of Andi, whose excellent album ‘Allt í einu’ turned heads earlier this year; SiGRÚN, whose debut LP ‘Onælan‘ marks a bold leap forward for her sound; and GYDA, the newly adopted nom du plume of Gyða Valtýsdóttir, whose ‘Evolution’ is a long-awaited and much-admired album of solo material.
The Icelandic rap scene is, of course, present—Birnir gets the nod for ‘Matador,’ Ragga Holm for ‘Bipolar,’ the eccentric Elli Grill for ‘Pottþétt 2018,’ and the ever-evolving CYBER for ‘BIZNESS.’ A trio of all-caps pop and R’n’B artists—BRÍET, AUÐUR and GDRN—also get the nod.
Come through, RVK underground!
Cult, niche and alternative music is also well represented. The post-dreifing indie label has no less than three records on the list—namely, the feelgood, halcyon indie-pop of the bagdad brothers ‘JÆJA’—which must be considered a frontrunner for the prize after a stellar year— DIY duo asdfgh.’s ‘Örvæntið ekki,’ and sideproject for ‘isis emoji.’
“This represents to us the words made flesh of our ideas,” says Aron Bjarklind of the post-dreifing collective. “We set out to create a label that puts the music and the artists at the front—not focusing on success or money. These nominations are the consequence of a strong community of care and support that allows the artists to grow and gain visibility through the people. Dreifing er hafin!”
FALK is another indie label whose efforts have been recognised this year through the animation of Jónbjörn. “After what seems like eons in the wilderness, unloved and unappreciated, the great and good at Kraumur have finally seen the light and saw the genius that is Jónbjörn,” says label rep Bob Cluness. “This guy has been working hard all year with his solo efforts as well as doing doing really great things with his own label Lagaffe Tales. The release itself has been a huge success outside of Iceland, and we expect great and terrible things from him in the future!”
Kids = alright
Blistering metal band ROHT are longlisted for ‘Iðnsamfélagið og framtíð þess,’ theremin wizard Hekla for the haunting ‘Á.’ Íbbagoggur—the founder of SMIT Records, also featured in this issue, is another nod to the underground.
All in all, the Kraumur list is a balanced selection of top-notch albums from a diverse and booming music scene. Whilst rap and pop might have soaked up the majority of the mainstream attention—there’s a reason they call it the mainstream, after all—the exciting, artistic, experimental and independent artists are a strong and highly welcome presence. Icelandic music is in good shape, indeed.
We’ll report on the final winners when they emerge—keep an eye on grapevine.is/music for that. And look out for our own Grapevine Music Awards come January.