A lot of interesting music came out in 2015. Some got more attention while other music fell between the cracks—such is life. Still, those who weren’t noticed might rejoice in the hope that one day, their music will be “rediscovered,” much like a lot of old Icelandic pop and rock music which has been re-issued by foreign labels with dusty fingers.
Millennials like myself haven’t heard about these old bands in general and if we ask our parents about their music, we usually get a baffled look, like: “Where the hell did you hear that?”
So, to celebrate good music, let’s look at a few Icelandic bands & musicians who were somewhat more overlooked than their peers—at least for my generation.
Sigrún Harðardóttir was a well-known young singer when her album ‘Shadow Lady’ came out in 1976. It was the first album entirely composed by a woman in Iceland and it got a four-star review in the newspaper Tíminn. “Sigrún’s album is the best album by an Icelandic woman, ever. Although the albums that female singers in Iceland have released before are not very good, ‘Shadow Lady’ is easily far better.” Sounds like a bit of a harsh thing to say about female solo artists at the time, but importantly this was the first female singer/songwriter in Icelandic pop history. Some of the biggest heavyweights in the rock scene at the time sang and played on the album as backing vocalists and accompanists. The album hasn’t been talked about much in recent years, except in 2012 when the business paper Viðskiptablaðið reported that an original vinyl copy of the album was the most expensive Icelandic album on eBay: 375 GBP, or about 77,000 Icelandic krónur.
Check out “Shadow Lady”
Taugadeildin (“The Nerve Ward”) was a post-punk band that operated between 1980 and 1981. They released one self-titled 7” inch and all the songs are amazing, top notch synth-punk. The singer, Óskar Þórisson, had worked with Fræbbblarnir, one of the biggest Icelndic punk bands, the spring of 1979; bassist Árni Daníel Júlíusson had been the singer of Snillingarnir. According to Wikipedia, “for a period the band used the drum machine Elizabeth I, which was later laid aside.” The band dissolved around the same time as their debut came out. Óskar later joined the awesome punk band Q4U, while Árni started Mogo Homo, a more experimental outfit. Fatefully, the reason why Taugadeildin is not present in the classic documentary 1982 documentary ‘Rokk í Reykjavík’ is because they broke up in the autumn, of 1981, just before the film was shot that winter.
Check out “Hvítar grafir (White Graves)”
Magnús Blöndal was an Icelandic composer, conductor and pianist born in 1925. He was at the forefront of the Icelandic avant-garde in the 1950s and early 60s. He was also a pioneer of electronic music, creating musique concrète works on a one-channel tape recorder that captured the attention of electronic pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who played his stuff on his radio show. Although he had a long and successful career, the whips and scorns of life would cause Blöndal to disappear from the scene for twenty years. According to Icelandic music expert Dr. Gunni, Blöndal almost killed himself with alcohol abuse and his wife died in a tragic accident.
In 1959, Magnús Blöndal was one of the founders of Musica Nova, a society for young composers. In a news article from 1960, it is noted that at the group’s concerts, guests can have refreshments before the concert and in the intermission. So along with pioneering electronic music in Iceland, he also inadvertently helped start the trend that has now culminated in drunk people frolicking at our many music festivals.
Check out “Samstirni (Constellation)”
Icecross were the potheads in the early 70s who used to hang out with your dad and they played sick ass proto-metal in the vein of Black Sabbath. After refining their sound at concerts in Copenhagen’s free state Christiania (read: Hell’s Angels-run hash capital), they recorded their self-titled album in 1973. The doomy sound and lyrics have given it a cult status among metalheads. All connoisseurs of Icelandic music should check out this album, no doubt.
The album was re-issued by the label Light and the Attic and on their website the album has a more kickass description than I could ever write: “Rippers Alert: Legendary and essential shreddage on board! Seriously great raw proto-metal with a punk spirit—this is a MUST GRIP.”
Check out “1999”
Honorable mentions: Andhéri, Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, Kvartett O. Jonsson og Grjóni, Náttúra, Oxsmá, Sonus Futurae, Svanfríður, Taugadeildin, Þokkabót