COMPILATION : VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Reykjavik Grapevine

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COMPILATION : VARIOUS ARTISTS


Published December 3, 2004

On this compilation, 18 Icelandic artists come together to raise money for the young people of Balata, one of the most densely populated refugee camps in Palestine. The album starts off with a song from well respected troubadour, KK, before making a u-turn with Vinyl. It seems the band has forever been on the brink of making it to the big leagues but somehow I don’t think songs like the one featured here will take them there. The same can be said about Tenderfoot who, despite having a lot of the right ingredients, struggle a bit to find their own voice to seperate them from the artists they’re emulating. Ske however, manage to use diffirent influences to their advantage and end up with a track that sounds like a lively cross between The Flaming Lips, Belle & Sebastian and Madness’ hit single ‘Michael Caine’.
The fifth track is a collaboration between the criminally non-prolific Delphi and a young singer called Lára. Her soft & sweet vocals blend well together with the bands trip-hop meanderings so the combination definitely shows promise although it could easily go either way. Next up are Quarashi, who need little introduction and deliver pretty much what you would expect from them. Ensími on the other hand take the listener by some surprise, opting for a warm country-esque ballad instead of their usual new-wave rock.
The attention then turns to Ghostigital, a predictably zany collaboration between ex-Sugarcube Einar Örn and multi-artist Bibbi Curver. After their little moment of madness, the relatively unknown Santiago and Touch offer two of the album’s most straight-forward pop-songs but both fail to really impress. Santiago seem to be caught in two minds between being an alt-country band or an out and out pop-group while Touch will hardly win many people over if they continue along these sugary-coated lines.
The ever so cute múm are, without a doubt, one of the most critically acclaimed bands ever to come out of Iceland and rightly so, even though I don’t think they’ve ever been able to recapture the magic of their debut. Unfortunately the bands seems to be running out of ideas and their song ‘Once a Shiny Morning Puddle’ (originally the b-side to ‘Nightly Cares’) leaves the listener wanting. To toughen things up XXX Rotweiler then come howling back after a two year hiatus and even though the hype has died down, the hip-hop outfit not only sounds as sharp as ever but also more mature. They are then followed by another band that’s been largely anonymous of late, Leaves, but as they only offer a previously released song it’s hard to tell whether they’re on the right course or still stuck in the muddy tracks of brit-pop. In contrast, 200.000 Naglbítar have a truly distinctive Icelandic sound and are highly regarded on these shores for their catchy 3 minute pop/rock songs. To be honest, I’ve never been quite able to understand why and the overly dramatic title track of their latest album does little to change my mind.
Worm is Green has focused mainly on the international market and been rewarded with some rave reviews, especially for their cover of the Joy Divisions’ ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Their haunting contribution also sets a nice standard for any upcoming releases. Bob Justman also shows great promise and I for one am eagerly anticipating the debut album from this moniker of Kristinn Gunnar Blöndal (Ensími and ex-Botnleðja), to be released soon on Moshi Moshi Music. I saw Justman perform live a couple of weeks ago and although he doesn’t quite recapture the emotions on show there, his song is without a doubt one of the album’s highlights. His sad ballad is then followed by a more upbeat (hence it’s title) song from Gus Gus which probably works a lot better in a dance club than in my home stereo.
An unreleased song from the man with the Midas touch, Mugison, then wraps everything up in a friendly fashion so at least the album ends on a good note. As compilation go, ‘Frjáls Palestína’ is a decent one but the stop-start nature of the tracklisting keeps it from ever flowing properly. There are some very nice touches but all in all it can be summed up as an album of good intentions rather than sheer quality.

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