The loss of Iceland and Daði Freyr last week at Eurovision was a crushing defeat for the Grapevine. But that said, the loss of Finland’s Blind Channel was equally traumatic. So put your middle fingers up and check out this new playlist.
Hjörtur Ingvi Jóhannsson – Aries
Hjörtur Ingvi Jóhansson—of Hjaltalín notoriety—is in the midst of his 24 Pictures Cycle, which will see the composer and pianist write a piece in every major and minor key over the next few years. Based in A minor, “Aries” (the second of the series following “Cascade”) is a relatively restrained, almost fearful track. Throughout every delicate arpeggio runs uncertainty, though there are modulated moments, of course, when more confidence shines through. Written in the early days of the pandemic, it speaks of a quiet trepidation, with a sweeping 2/4 beat that makes one viscerally feel a repeated, methodical, and dragging meander forward into the unknown. That said, it’s at all times beautiful—just maybe don’t play it during your first wedding dance. HJC
Kvikindi – Okei
Brynhildur Karlsdóttir… are you okei? Blink once and wear red in the next video if you need our help… We love you. So okei, “Okei” is not easy-listening, despite it sounding at all times like a rather pleasant, introspective, swooning track with calming washed-out vocals and an electro-somewhat-pop-punk vibe. Seriously, the track has an ASMR quality to it, which makes you think it’d be perfect to relax to when your social meter is just done. But no, listen to the lyrics and you’ll hear a different story:
“The psychologist says I’m okay,
My therapist says I’m okay,
My sponsor says I’m okay,
My friends say I’m okay.”
Fucking hell. Brynhildur, it’s 11:00 AM on a Friday right now. I can’t feel this much. Yes, in reality, the track is an intense, stark, so-personal-it’s-heartbreaking look at her own mental health. We thank her for being so honest because in these times, the question of being “okei” is oh so relatable. But why Brynhildur thought it’d be best to talk about this while wearing a Mayhem shirt? We’re unsure, but maybe it’s best to watch out for large gasoline purchases and put a little more security at Hallgrímskirkja.
TL;DR: Send this to any non-Icelandic speaking music critic abroad and they’d definitely think this was some sort of post-krútt dance lovesong. Trust us, it’s not. HJC
Ásta – Kaffi hjá Salóme
Ásta—a sometime viola soloist with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra—turned songstress only a couple of years ago, but has already attracted plaudits from both the Icelandic Music Awards and Iceland Airwaves Festival.
This is a pleasant two-and-a-half-minutes in which she shares kaffi og köku and vocal duties with fellow songstress Salóme Katrín. The song’s spacious arrangement and fluid vibe are reminiscent of Kings Of Convenience—or even Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” at times—while the predominance of strings shows Ásta playing to her strengths.
This is a polished and accomplished track that is polite enough not to outstay its welcome, so it can drop in for coffee any time. JP
Kristín Sesselja – Perfect For Me
There were rumours weeks ago that Taylor Swift was going to surprise drop her third effort in the ‘Folklore’ trilogy. It didn’t happen. Thankfully Kristín Sesselja is here to quench our thirst for confessional pop and to be honest, we’re not dating a famous English actor, so it’s a little more relatable. “Perfect For Me” starts with one of the best samples we’ve recently heard, describing Kristín frolicking on the dance floor to a remix of ‘Frozen’. Let it go, girl. But the song is way more than its first seconds. No, in fact, it asks a lot of questions that we’ve also been mulling over, such as: “Why are all the pretty girls getting secluded by crusty little men who make them feel excluded?” and “Why are all the pretty girls getting fucked over by men who look like they smoke crack during passover?” Seriously—why does Pete Davidson get so many hot girls? Machine Gun Kelly? JUSTIN BIEBER? We’re lost. Anyway—Kristín has done it once again and given us the groovy, empowering love song we didn’t even know we needed. “You’d be perfect for me if I had no standards.” In true Kristín fashion, it’s also a bouncy earworm that manages to have that timeless pop flair. That said, hopefully, the topic will not be timeless. It’s 2021—respect yourself. HJC
Gudfinnur – Light
You have two choices when it comes to recording a song that is just acoustic guitar and voice: layers of tracks with complex, interwoven harmonies, or intimate simplicity. This track achieves the latter, with a melody so sparse it almost serves just as accents to the truly heart-rending vocals. Naked as a cloudy day, it’s the kind of song that might make you nostalgic for a place you’ve never been to. The perfect complement to a day at home sipping tea and watching the wind through the window. ASF
gugusar – Röddin í Klettur
Gugusar, (Guðlaug Sóley to her mum), is a Grafarvogur girl who produces glitchy lo-fi heartfelt pop songs. Oh, and she’s very young; not yet out of her teens, despite having been producing quality tunage for several years now. We should get that out of the way now as it always seems to come up.
“Röddin í Klettur” has a mournful minor-key melancholy which comes off as fragile, but it also possesses a sense of self-assurance way beyond what might be expected. Oh, and there’s a great bubba-dubba-dum-dum singalong middle section which hops right over any potential language barriers. JP
Antsy – Summer Longing
We all long for summer now, after this dark and depressing winter. French artist Antsy, based in Reykjavík, captures the right and gentle sound of a slowly peeking summer, including green-turning landscapes and bright summer nights. He enchants one with his indie-synth pop piece “Summer Longing” and guarantees hope for brighter days and happier moods. Summer is finally here! AM
Rosk – I Don’t Remember
Cinematic singer and songwriter Rosan Sashida, known as Rosk, takes us on an aforementioned cinematic journey with her latest song “I Don’t Remember”. This track reminds one of uplifting summer drives with friends while watching sunflowers pass by. Energetic guitar sounds and electric synth-pop underline this beautiful indie piece. AM
Kristjana Stefans – Brimful Heart
A leading artist in the Icelandic jazz scene, Kristjana’s “Brimful Heart” is a Memoriam of sombre notes accompanied by an angelic, elevated tone. The song carries the listener through the sound of its gentle violin, while the piano keeps one from slipping into sorrow, and the sounds leave you with a heightened sense of musical empathy. BK
Kaktus Einarsson – Kick The Ladder
With a taste for experimental work, Kaktus is best known for his involvement in the electronic act Ghostigital and rock band Fufanu. In “Kick the Ladder,” he leads in with an eerie opening that picks up with the subtle, consistent strums of a guitar. Kaktus develops a gentle, spacey beat that you could sink into. His voice comes softly as drums come into the scene. While picking up pace, Kaktus manages to maintain a beautiful and subtle background as the foreground evolves ominously but invigoratingly. BK
einarIndra – Without You feat. Abbey Parker
einarIndra delivers here with a succulent lo-fi trip-hop effort featuring heavy drums and the beautiful voice of Abbey Parker (Lefay). You’ll find all of his distinctive styles here: solid drums and a heavy sound world balanced out with beautiful melancholia. As always, einarIndra delivers something fresh and fills your soul with something important while he’s at it. Thank you. VG
Ezekiel Carl – Líður svo vel
Icelandic hip-hop has developed a cohesive style of late, distinguished by autotune, snappy beats, and heavy bass. There’s a lot of that on Ezekiel Carl’s release Tímalínan, but this track stands out. Unmistakably a party track, it has the sound and the feel of the early 2000s, when all a post-9/11 party culture wanted to do was dance to songs about feeling good, free hands holding red Solo cups and MDMA rolling through their veins. Definitely a track to throw on to lift the mood on the floor, and one you will undoubtedly hear blowing through the tinted windows of cars crawling down Laugavegur on a Friday night. ASF
Benni Hemm Hemm – 3000
The Indie King of Iceland, Benni Hemm Hemm is back at it with “3000”. Benni is well-known in the Icelandic music scene as part of a remarkable group that shaped the Icelandic indie world in the 00s. Benni’s strong points have always been his knack for catchy melodies as well as his odd sense of humour. This song compiles it all, and more than that. It’s odd, fun and, well, goddamn catchy. VG
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