Us Straumur guys would like to wish all of our readers a happy new musical year! With that out of the way, let’s dig into the recent past to uncover our top five favourite Icelandic albums and songs of last year.
The five best albums of 2015
5. Mr. Silla – ‘Mr. Silla’
Mr. Silla has been active in the local music scene for over a decade, most prominently as a singer of múm, but this is her first solo offering, and it doesn’t disappoint one bit. Silla’s angelic voice towers over the impeccably produced album, which conveys an irresistibly bittersweet melancholy. While her eponymous début might brings to mind hypermodern songstresses like FKA twigs and Kelela, Mr. Silla fully succeeds in building a sound and world of her own.
4. Gísli Pálmi – ‘Gísli Pálmi’
After releasing a string of YouTube videos to critical and popular acclaim over the course of the last three years, Gísli Pálmi finally dropped a proper LP this spring. The record was a major event in Iceland, with eager GP fans lining up outside the record store to score the first copies—and as soon as folks managed to bring the record home, Iceland’s Twitter community basically exploded. People went apeshit. It’s no wonder. ‘Gísli Pálmi’ is a real phenomenon, cinematic and larger than life, sporting futuristic hi-fi extravaganza beats underscoring GP’s debauched lyrics and outsized character.
Vaginaboys are mysteriously masked musical love machines who claim to make music that aims for your heart and genitals. They finally dropped a début EP, ‘Icelandick’, (heh) at the end of the year, offering six servings of 808s, heartbreaks, synthesizers and sincerity. We can’t get enough.
For the second year in a row, those Pink Street Boys made our second favourite album of the year. PSB have firmly cemented their status one of Iceland’s most explosive live bands (and they have the Grapevine Award to prove it!), and on ‘Hits#1’ they manage to harness that power—and then some.
‘Snapshots’ is so blazingly ambitious and carefully thought-out that one can’t help but feel in awe of Tonik’s craft. It is a techno album that goes far beyond techno, featuring some pristine vocal performances and meticulously arranged and sequenced “real songs.” Every detail has been considered to the point where there’s not an ounce of excess to be found. ‘Snapshots’ is digital and analogue, uplifting and gloomy, a humanist soul shining through it all.
The five best songs of 2015
5. “Love, love, love” – Helgi Valur
Helgi Valur composed this epic ten-minute journey of a song while committed to a mental institution in the midst of a schizophrenic episode. Fittingly, the lyrics hone on in that brand of insanity we commonly refer to as love. Complete with a spoken word rant and hair-raising guitar solo. Listen to it now. And again.
Finally Hjaltalín released a new song, three long years after the release of their breakthrough masterpiece, ‘Enter IV’. The tune is a blend of neo-classical minimalism and electronics, where every sound has its own space. Högni’s vocals kill it in the chorus.
In “Stelpur” (“Girls”), Jón Þór digs into the essence of being young, desperate and lovesick in the midst of the whirlpool of a drinking binge in the Reykjavík nightlife. The ridiculously catchy chorus sticks to your frontal brain for weeks after listening to it.
Rapper GKR managed to make a name for himself and get ahead of the competition in what was by all accounts a very strong year for Icelandic hip-hop. He did this with a song about what some say is the most important meal of the day, breakfast. While other rappers brag about how hardcore they are, GKR offers a very keen eye for everyday life and the various details that make it up.
This oh-so beautiful breakout hit from Vaginaboys burst onto the scene this spring from out of nowhere. It’s a wonderfully bittersweet RnB-tinged slow jam painted with old-sounding drum machines and warm synth pads. The icing on the 1980s cake is the vocals, drenched in layers upon layers of autotune and vocoder as they are, and tweaked in all sorts of unexpected ways. It is both sad and sexy, like that final breakup fuck after you decide to end a relationship and part ways with a lover.
Óli Dóri and Davíð Roach document the local music scene and help people discover new music at straum.is. It is associated with the radio show Straumur on X977, which airs every Monday evening at 23:00. For more detailed lists (in Icelandic), head over to their website.
Look! It’s The Winners Of Reykjavík Grapevine’s 2016 Music Awards
Since its first ever edition, music journalism has always been one of the cornerstones of The Reykjavík Grapevine media empire and the vibrant Icelandic music scene an endless source of inspiration, debate, and drunken dancing among our writers and staff throughout the years.