Album of the year: Mother Melancholia by Sóley
‘Mother Melancholia’ is a dark, deep exploration into the feeling of the end of the world, imminent death and destruction, as well as the complexity of a feminist riot surging within the heart of a woman. This is an unusually visual album, almost like a film without the film.
It also shows incredible depth within sóley as a musician. In some ways, she says that she has broken free from the box that she had built around herself the last decade, intentionally or not. “After I finished my record deal with my publisher, I felt like I had a new sense of freedom. This is not to be understood like I had any problems with my record company or other albums, but in some senses, being without a record company, freed me from the pressure of the music industry,” she explains. “I was starting to find myself in a box that wasn’t right for me. Perhaps it’s this feeling that you have to please the invisible listener, the one you think is there, sitting on the other side of the screen, listening and judging what is right and wrong in art. But then I reminded myself to never underestimate the listener. It’s really interesting how the music industry can be helpful in some ways, but also destructive in others,” she explains.
The result of her newfound freedom is ‘Mother Melancholia’, an album that is dark, haunting, slow and, most of all, without compromise. Asked about this, sóley laughs: “Well, I wasn’t trying to make a difficult album to listen to.” And she is absolutely right, because there is a beautiful ethereal atmosphere above all the dark tones, like a colourful sky in the winter darkness. “I’m scared shitless when it comes to death,” she says, “and that’s the spark for this album.
The album is also born from my obsessive interest in movies. The title itself is a homage to the two movies, ‘Mother!’ and ‘Melancholia’. That’s when I found some connection in the album and the feeling that I had within myself.” She says that the movies inspired her to ponder the complexity of Earth, God, the end of the world. And being a woman. “I found some feminist riot within myself, a strong feeling I want to work more with,” she explains. sóley self-published the album, a process she says was a tough learning experience, but one that saw her grow as a person and an artist. Asked if she was afraid that her new approach and the resulting darkness would alienate listeners, her answer is simply no. “As long as you are proud of what you do, it doesn’t really matter,” she says.
Album of the year: Eilífur snjór í augunum by kef LAVÍK
kef LAVÍK have been lauded by Grapevine for a few years now, even before they were willing to disclose who they were. But Einar Birkir Bjarnason and Ármann Örn Friðriksson, the duo who comprise the band, have dropped the defining party album of the year in ‘Eilífur snjór í augunum’, and is part of the why they’ve won album of the year.
We were able to track down the elusive Ármann and we had just one question to start: who are you guys anyway? Why the mystery? Turns out, they’re far more approachable than you might think.
“Our defining characteristic is we are friendly guys making art pop,” Ármann tells us. “We’re from the countryside of Iceland, Höfn. One chef and one computational engineer trying to be funny and emotional at the same time.”
What makes ‘Eilífur snjór í augunum’ special is it sounds like it was written for a stir-crazy populace itching to get out and party as the pandemic closes in on its second year. It turns out this was just a matter of fate, as this was not at all the album’s intent.
“I think the album is really based on six months in 2019,” Ármann says. “So it’s really, really pre-pandemic. When the pandemic started, we switched projects and made [the EP] ‘Heim eftir 3 mánuði í burtu.’ But this album has been ongoing for two years before we released it, and the lyrics are really only about pre-pandemic stuff. But I guess it’s good to release music that’s based on partying and getting your jam on in the pandemic. I think that’s the music that really resonates with people right now, rather than the serious stuff.”
Ármann was nearly speechless upon learning kef LAVÍK had won this award, but somehow managed to tell us: “We are always happy to get recognition for our process. We’re just happy to accept this award and get recognition for this album.”
Alexander Jean de Fontenay – Music expert, DJ and Graphic designer
Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen – Journalist and PhD in Socio-musicology
Hannah Jane Cohen – Former cultural editor at Reykjavík Grapevine and performing artist
Nína Richter – Cultural journalist at Fréttablaðið and a musician
Valur Grettisson – Editor-in-chief at The Reykjavík Grapevine
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