Different from all of these is Jólaplata, a nice mixed bag of styles and approaches, with original songs written just for this album, some traditional Icelandic carols and modern takes on classic Christmas numbers. All this with a cover which looks like a Kraftwerk Christmas album had there ever been one.
Upon meeting Atli, the producer and promoter of this compilation album, I get the impression that this is an ambitious chap, this being his fourth released CD in recent years. He talks to me about the difficulties for bands to release an entire album here in Iceland, and that there is no real market for singles, leaving some bands finding it elusive to be released at all. And so he came up with the idea of comprising a compilation of songs with some favourite Icelandic bands, but also some relatively unknown ones.
But why Christmas songs?
‘There are a lot of typical bad Christmas albums out there and I simply wanted to hear my favourite Icelandic bands play some modern, decent Christmassy tunes’
Genres vary wildly on this album from electronic, lo-fi, pop, rock, Indie and even some live recordings, so as an album it covers a lot of ground. It starts with a track from Ókind, ‘Jólakötturinn’ which is reminiscent of modern Japanese pop fused with a strong guitar riff. Tracks from more established bands such as Lokbrá, and newcomers such as Doddi and Isidor will leave you surprised at the departure from their usual style. From Isidor we hear a rat pack style jazz number, with tinkly bells in the background instead of their usual more rocky sound. This is complimented nicely by an equally 1960s style jazz track from the Latino boys. An as yet unreleased band, Doddi’s track is one of the strongest, an atmospheric lo-fi, electronic version of Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ with a crackly sample from the original leading us into the track. Lokbrá provide the album with a traditional carol ‘Ó helga nótt’ with gentle guitar rock and raspy vocals. Atli himself, the man behind this project, has a song on this yuletide album, a gentle electronic version of that old classic ‘Chestnuts Roasting on the Open Fire’ with a trumpet solo depicting the familiar tune.
The original tracks written for the album come from the bands BoB ‘Clowns in Christmas town’ a fine title for a holiday tune; an electro cut and paste style with deep spoken lyrics. There are some pleasant Indie sounding versions of traditional Icelandic Carols, with harmonised vocals, and Hermigervill’s ‘Jólasull’ uses the traditional tune of the ‘Little Drummer Boy’ refrain cleverly against an originally composed backdrop of lo-fi gritty but gentle electronica.
The album will be released by the 3rd December in most record shops around Reykjavik.
It is a slice of the current live music scene, and an interesting and creative take on a classic genre. And with all money going to either Amnesty International or the Homeless centres here in Iceland, it is both a credible and charitable purchase.