On Tuesday, December 22nd, the Grapevine staff put together a selection of their favourite Icelandic Christmas songs and then sent it to their intern Megan, who speaks no Icelandic and knew nothing of Icelandic Christmas before last month. She then gave her honest in-the-moment opinion on these classics so you, our dear reader who maybe speaks no Icelandic, get the realest holiday thoughts available. Presenting: The Official 2020 Reykjavík Grapevine Holiday Playlist.
Emmsjé Gauti & Jülevenner – Hjálpum mér
This song, with candles and choral vocals, embodies the energy of a group of happy-go-lucky carol-singers lighting up the night with their joyous song. Or at least it would if the occasional “fuck” and “goddammit” weren’t there to remind me that actually, I have no idea what Emmsjé Gauti & Jülevenner are saying. The title of this song translates to “help me”, and is a cover of “Hjálpum þeim”, which came out in 1985 and raised money for charity. “Hjálpum mér” is also doing the same, with all proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital.
[Editor’s Note: The song’s (hopefully) satirical lyrics are rather genius. So for your non-Icelandic speakers, they are in the realm of: “I know many of you have had a hard time this year, but none of you has had such a hard time. The gym I get for free is closed and I’m in a car that needs a key inserted. I don’t even have a heated steering wheel anymore.” Listeners are asked to deposit money directly into his bank account, which actually goes to the Hringur Children’s Hospital.]
Daði Freyr – Every Moment Is Christmas With You
Daði Freyr’s Christmas ballad is as smooth and as soothing as a hot chocolate on a dark winter’s night. Staying inside is made much easier with a Christmas song like this one, which is something you can play on repeat when you’re not busy binge-watching Christmas films (Daði mentions ‘Home Alone’ in this track—he clearly has impeccable taste when it comes to holiday movies).
Jóhanna Gúðrún – Löngu Liðnir Dagar
A dark stage, a single spotlight, Christmas decor, and Jóhanna Gúðrún’s angelic voice piercing through the dark. Löngu Liðnir Dagar translates as “Long Days”, and I’m definitely dreaming of those. But right now, it’s Christmas, and Jóhanna’s performance of this Christmas ballad wants to make sure we know it. As Jóhanna bursts into an Icelandic cover of “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”, it’s impossible not to get into the holiday spirit.
[Editor’s Note: Is it true? Well… there’s no Christmas dolphin visuals to be seen, but we still love it.]
Björk – Jólakötturinn
In this song, Björk tells the story of the Christmas Cat, who is a huge predator that feasts on those who do not receive an item of clothing for Christmas. This haunting folk tune lingers like a cold chill, reminding us that those who don’t have what they need might fall victim to the Christmas Cat, or worse: the perils of late-stage capitalism.
[Editor’s Note: Read more about the Jólakötturinn here.]
Elli Grill – Um Jólin (ft. Holy Hrafn)
The music video for this Christmas track will make you long for a time before the gathering ban when it was safe for you and all your friends to hang out together indoors. Although, maybe not. At Elli Grill’s Christmas party someone gets their hand cut off (there’s blood everywhere but at least it’s a festive colour, right?). This tune is something for you to play if you’re bored of wholesome Christmas music and want to hype things up a bit.
Baggalútur, BRÍET & Valdimar Guðmundsson – Jólin eru okkar
This Christmas tune is calming and homely, melancholy and beautiful. It wouldn’t be out of place in a classic holiday movie or a John Lewis Christmas advert. The ambient piano almost sounds like snow gently falling outside, and the vocals are calming enough to send any excitable Christmas-lover to sleep. Or, at least, to help the night pass faster as they eagerly await Christmas morning.
Herra Hnetusmjör (ft. Björgvin Halldórsson) – Þegar Þú Blikkar
This feel-good track seems like the perfect way to play out the Christmas season as you reflect back on the most wonderful time of the year. Listen to these perfectly tuned vocals, chill beats, and groovy baselines as you look back on all the time you didn’t spend with family, all the money you spent on gifts, and all the food you ate. We can’t wait to do it all again next year.
Skaði – Jóla fíling
“Jóla, jóla, jóla, jóla fíling!” This is a tune that will get stuck in your head: sleigh bells, a persistent beat, angelic backing vocals and, well—jóla fíling! If it isn’t already on your Christmas playlist, it’s definitely one to add. Skaði performs this track alone, with a minimal, sparsely-decorated set, which certainly seems fitting for a 2020 Christmas.
[Editor’s Note: I got this stuck in my head for a month last year. – Hannah Jane]
Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.
You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!