The Icelandic music year was better than we expected at the beginning of the pandemic. Icelandic artists didn’t let it stop them releasing not only quite good music, but possibly occasional masterpieces. And perhaps what’s more interesting, no genre was more dominating than others. We have seriously rough techno, indie-punk, jazz and soothing dreamscapes. Here are the most intriguing albums of the year in this critics opinion, in no particular order.
Volruptus – First Contact
You don’t find much when you google this artist, but of course you will find an interview in The Reykjavík Grapevine with the likeable Bjargmundur Ingi Kjartansson. Volruptus is the new kid on the block in the European techno world: he has already captivated the attention of the dark queen of techno, Nina Kraviz, with his first album, ‘Hessdalen’, which was published in her label трип in 2017. Not only that, she said that the album was her favourite that year. His newest album, First Contact, is nothing less than a strong sign that Icelandic techno is still very alive and getting stronger. We already have an underground superstar, Bjarki, that seems to grow even stronger every year but this guy is knocking on the door and claiming the throne. The album, First Contact, like often in the techno world, does not compromise, and it’s pretty given that this will not be for everyone. But the captivating aggressive soundscape will make everyone else hooked. Expect to hear his songs late in seedy clubs, like Berghein.
Skoffín – Hentar íslenskum aðstæðum
This is the album that you didn’t know you needed until you heard it. And when you have, you can’t really live without it. It’s an indie punk album from the wonderful art gang, Post-dreifing, and it literally saved this writer’s mind in the midst of the hellish boredom of the pandemic. The rock and roll is powerful, original, seeking inspiration from punk, indie, sixties surf rock and the Cold War. This odd fusion transforms into a happy-go-lucky danceable feast of madness where you scream-sing about cute girls and ask them to go to war with you. Easily one of Iceland’s best rock and roll albums of the year.
Ingibjörg Turchi – Meliae
Icelandic Jazz has surprisingly gotten a new voice that seems to be able to become a superstar in the jazz world. Ingibjörg Turchi is a well known bass player in Iceland, first notable in the party cover band Babies, but has now emerged as a serious player in the Icelandic jazz world. Her new album ‘Meliae’ is seductive bass-heavy jazz with a modern vibe that will intrigue every jazz enthusiast in the world. Her superb bass playing brings some real magic into this album and the composition is original and demands close attention. Hands down best jazz albums of the year in this writer’s opinion, and what’s more, a worthy contestant for the best album of the year.
Album available in Grapevine shop, buy it here.
JFDR – Dream On
It can be easy for critic’s to look past Jófríður Ákadóttir, aka JFDR, when writing a list like this. Her voice is so incredibly effortless, the composition is so strong and good that you always feel like you’re meeting an old friend when you listen to her, and you kind of forget that she’s there, in all of her dreamscaping reality. But her new album, ‘Dream On’ will not be overlooked this time. It’s full of her warm and unique voice as well as strong and solid composition that few in the Icelandic music scene can repeat. It’s a soothing dream world that you happily get lost in, and she doesn’t wake you up until the last note in the last song. Beautiful album, with one of Iceland’s most talented artists. Take a bow for the queen of dreams.
Album available in Grapevine shop, buy it here (LP) or here (CD).
Hekla – Sprungur
If a volcano could make an album, this would be the one. Hekla’s album, ‘Sprungur’, is definitely the most unique music experience on this list. Hekla (which is also the name of the most infamous volcano in Iceland) uses piano and a theremin to create the most interesting soundscape I have heard this year. It’s so bizarre, beautiful and even forces you to think about the old Icelandic romantic composers that were under heavy influences from the forces of nature in Iceland. The music has a dark undertone yet this soothing and beautiful melodies playing all around like mythical creatures lurking in the highlands. It pulls your soul and fills you with this drunk feeling. It’s an old spell, like a dark gothic tale that you fear, yet you can’t stop listening to. It’s forbidden to pick favourites here, but this album is…well, up there. In this critic’s mind, Hekla’s timeless music will be the one we will remember a century from now.
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