Published July 3, 2013
Útidúr were called the ‘Beirut of Iceland’ in their early days, and not without reason. There is more than a bit of Zach Condon in lead vocalist Gunnar Örn’s deep-throated delivery and their debut was full of faintly Balkan-sounding indie-pop. On their new record, their approach is more playful and the influences more scattered.
What does this mean? Well, Caribbean vibes mingle with piano punk freak-outs on “Bumblebee.” Opener “Grasping for Air” is like a great lost upbeat Cardigans track with Beirut-like strings and brass. “Vultures” is a beautiful bouncy single with psychedelic woodwind breakdowns and ear-infecting Wurlitzer hooks. And instrumental closer “Harmonikk” is based around soaring synth pads playing ’90s progressions and broken beats. In other words, this music is brimming with ideas and every new rotation brings fresh details to light.
The addition of electronics really suits the band and tracks like “Aeroplane” benefit from the overall sharper focus on groove and dance-inducing rhythms. In the record’s quieter moments, Gunnar’s baritone is complemented by wispy but charming female vocals courtesy of Sólveig Anna Aradóttir; these moments are well appreciated. Some of these songs might come off as a bit too comfy or cutesy for certain listeners, but all I hear is an exceptionally entertaining and well-executed recording.