The Grapevine Music Awards 2020 is here! As is tradition, we at the Grapevine once again convened a panel of valued experts (see who they were at the foot of this article) to comb through the brightest talents, breakthrough moments, and ear-catching tunes of the year; from a metal quintet to an award-winning composer to three BDSM-enthusiasts to a man who turned the moon into a song, this year’s group of winners is unusually diverse, and we couldn’t be more happy about that. So without further ado, here they are: the lovely winners of the Grapevine Music Awards 2020!
Artist of the Year: Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Yeah, how do I explain it?” composer Hildur Guðnadóttir ponders aloud over the phone. She’s currently in Berlin, sitting in her studio. “This year, just by complete accident, both projects that I worked on—the reception of them—went beyond my wildest dreams. It’s been quite incredible.”
The projects in question are two soundtracks: one for the HBO miniseries ‘Chernobyl’ and the second for the Warner Brothers film ‘Joker.’ Calling each work “acclaimed” would be an understatement—’Chernobyl’ won Hildur an Emmy award and is currently nominated for a Grammy, while ‘Joker’ nabbed a Golden Globe and is a favourite to take home an Academy Award.
“You can’t talk about this year in Icelandic music without first mentioning Hildur Guðnadóttir,” the panel said of the award. “Her eerie, thought-provoking music was the driving force between arguably the most popular film as well as the most celebrated TV series of the year: ‘Joker’ and ‘Chernobyl.’ But her award is for more than just the end result—one must also recognise the creativity of Hildur’s process. She created the ‘Chernobyl’ soundtrack from sounds she recorded within a decommissioned nuclear plant. She also wrote much of the music for ‘Joker’ before filming began, meaning moments of the actor’s brilliant performances were directly tied to her music. Saying she has a bright future is an understatement. One can hardly imagine what she will do next.”
Honourable Mentions: Une Misère, Hatari, Solveig Matthildur
Check out our coverage of Hildur’s award here.
Album of the Year: Une Misère – Sermon
2019 was a banner year for metal quintet Une Misère. Record label Nuclear Blast signed them in January, the same month they released their first single ‘Damages.’ In November, they dropped their debut album ‘Sermon,’ which found its way onto essentially every metalhead’s albums of the year list. Now, it has earned them the Grapevine Album of the Year, and for good reason—each track is a well-polished anthem to misery.
The panel said: “With ‘Sermon,’ Une Misère made an album that crossed audiences in a way most bands of their genre never do. It was a metal album that hip-hop heads, electronic-fans, and those entirely unfamiliar with metal found joy in. Within each track of ‘Sermon’ were lyrics that starkly and viscerally told stories of addiction and struggles with mental health. The band laid their souls bare in ‘Sermon,’ without fear of judgement. For this, we must celebrate them.”
Honourable Mentions: Bjarki — Happy Earthday, Kristín Anna — I Must Be The Devil
Check out our coverage of Une Misère’s award here.
Song of the Year: Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra
One couch. Three banners. Seven seconds of live television. And with that, the leather-clad doomsday anticapitalist BDSM water-hawking scam artist tycoons (we could go on) Hatari, made history under their mantra of “Hatrið mun sigra,” as they brought the world’s attention to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.
“If there is one 2019 song that everyone in the country knows, loves, and can sing out loud on command, it’s ‘Hatrið mun sigra,’” the panel declared. “Within those parameters, the track is absolutely incomparable to any other. But ‘Hatrið mun sigra’ represents more than just its heart-pumping beat, anarchic lyrics, or extreme popularity, it recalls a musical moment that will go down in Icelandic history. At Eurovision 2019, Hatari stood up for what was right and, in doing so, made the nation proud.”
Honourable Mentions: None. It was a unanimous decision.
Check out our coverage of Hatari’s award here.
Video of the Year: Bjarki – ANa5
For his 2018 Sónar Reykajvík set, Bjarki reached out to friends Daníel Heimisson and Baldvin Vernharðsson to collaborate on the audio-visual aspects of the performance. The result of this fateful partnership was a true feast for the senses. It also resulted in Daníel and Baldvin teaming up to form a new video art duo, Video1. The two would later reconnect with Bjarki to direct and produce the music video for ‘ANa5,’ from the electronic kingpin’s February release ‘Happy Earthday’ released in February. That video has been crowned the Grapevine’s 2020 Music Video Of The Year.
For Bjarki, the song is meant to reflect on environmental issues, but the video adds another dimension to that theme. “There are so many added layers in this video that I notice with every watch,” he explains. In the video, mannequins zoom across Icelandic nature to get to a cave where they are reunited with their offspring. They then take part in a mating ritual to plant seeds for a new generation.
The panel said: “Bjarki’s ‘ANa5’ was a masterpiece in both concept, production, and execution. It’s an unusual, thought-provoking music video that showcases the immense imagination of Bjarki, producers and directors Daníel Heimisson and Baldvin Vernharðsson at Video1, motion-designer Gabríel Bachmann and cinematographer Bryngeir Vattnes. The visuals of the film—that of mannequins zooming across the Icelandic landscape—are stirring, unforgettable, and ultimately a profound statement on the human race, the environment, and more.”
Honourable Mentions: Vök — In The Dark, JóiPe & Króli — Tveir Koddar
Read our coverage of Bjarki’s award here.
Best Live Band: Kælan Mikla
While 2018 saw the release of their seminal breakthrough effort ‘Nótt eftir nótt,’ it was 2019 that cemented Kælan Mikla as bonafide international goth sensations. The dark wave, post-punk trio burst onto the world stage in 2019, with their first ever North American tour, as well as numerous European dates and some really serious festival slots. Back in Iceland for a brief break before the madness resumes, the trio sat down to reminisce on the past 12 mystical months.
The panel said: “Kælan Mikla had a standout year, with the band journeying outside Iceland for a number of international tours, big festivals, and more. Their live performances consistently go above and beyond, full of not only raw, unbridled talent and energy, but also aesthetics that stick in your head long after the show has ended. This band has more than just musical talent, they have the ability to conceptualise just what a live show should be, and the drive to execute it.”
Honourable Mentions: Auður, Countess Malaise
Read our coverage of Kælan Mikla’s award here.
Artist To Watch: Ra:tio
Producers Bjarki Sigurðarson and Teitur Helgi Skúlason could best be described as low-key. In person, the duo—which works under the moniker Ra:tio—exemplifies the word “chill.” At first meeting, you’d never guess that every album the two have touched has blown up, and as they stand, they’re probably the most talked-about production team in the country. Calling them One To Watch even feels insufficient—so let’s revise that, they’re One To Follow.
“For the past two years, Ra:tio has stood in the background behind some of the biggest and most promising artists in Iceland,” the panel said. “The production duo’s unique ability to craft everything from bold, emotional hard-hitters to ear-worm party hits must be applauded, and every project they’ve touched reveals a profound understanding of song-writing far beyond the years the two have been working. For anyone looking to find the best and brightest in Icelandic music, just watch Ra:tio.”
Honourable Mentions: Krassasig, una schram
Read our coverage of Ra:tio’s award here.
You Should Have Heard This: K.óla
Katrín Helga Ólafsdóttir has a natural flair. Her ineffable style and irrefutable talents traverse a vast array of influences to create an intriguing amalgamation of structures, instrumentations and tones, with candid and perceptive lyrics at their foundation. Already an underground icon as the lead singer of dream-punk band Milkhouse, Katrín wanted to explore new territories with her solo project, and it seemed only natural to extend her short-hand artist signature as a moniker for her music: K.óla.
The panel said: “K.óla’s ‘Allt Verður Alltílæ’ is an addictive showcase of experimental pop prowess. The album—a heartfelt, catchy, seven-song melange of genres—grabs the soul of those who hear it, and for that reason, she was a shoe-in for the ’You Should Have Heard This’ award. If that’s not enough, her live performances are equally as charming. We can’t wait to see what she does next.”
Honourable Mentions: Krabba Mane, Countess Malaise
Read our coverage of K.óla’s award here.
Shout Out: Hátíðni
The beauty of Hátíðni—and the reason it garnered a Grapevine Music Awards Shout Out—comes from the modus operandi of the festival and of the Post-dreifing collective itself: Do It Together (D.I.T.).
“The way we view this festival is the same way we view every show, which is that the people are not just a passive audience but are active participants in the event,” explains Post-dreifing-er Bjarni Daníel. “Everyone takes part. Random guests were doing the rounds in the campsites picking up trash or helping in the kitchen. Even though the music is great and the creative aspect is super important to all of us, the most important part is the community we’ve created collectively. That is what people will remember.”
The panel said: “In its second iteration, Hátíðni entered the small town of Borðeyri and turned it into perhaps the most wholesome music festival Iceland has ever seen. Inspired by the D.I.T. (Do It Together) spirit of the Post-dreifing collective—the creative minds behind the festival—Hátíðni 2019 showed that music festivals can be safe and inclusive, and that, if given the chance, audience members will rise up to be active participants in the event.”
Read our coverage of Hátíðni’s award here.
Shout Out: Halldór Eldjárn
When two seemingly opposite interests combine, the result is something out of this world. This year, programmer and musician Halldór Eldjárn—together with the help of his trusted computer and NASA’s infinite media library—gave us ‘Poco Apollo.’ To make the experimental album, the artist created a programming system that transformed pictures of the moon into musical notes, tones, and chords. The end result is Halldór’s interpretation of the sound of the moon.
“The process by which Halldór Eldjárn created his album ‘Poco Apollo,’ that of making a programming system which quite literally turned the cosmos into sound, is deserving of commemoration,” the panel explained. “The project was an intricate, innovative, and completely fresh take on the art of songwriting. We can only wait with bated breath for what he will conceptualise next.”
Read our coverage of Halldór’s award here.
The panel was comprised of:
Hannah Jane Cohen (Chairman Of The Panel, The Reykjavík Grapevine)
The awards panel was chaired by Hannah Jane Cohen, the Listings Director/Culture Editor of the Reykjavík Grapevine. Hannah Jane is known for her extensive and oftentimes exhaustive coverage of Icelandic metal, hip-hop, and other hip things. Outside of that, she is the current Drag King of Iceland, Hans, as well as an award-winning poet. She enjoys living, laughing and loving.
Alexander Jean Edvard Le Sage De Fontenay (Journalist, DJ, More)
Alexander Jean has written about electronic music for The Reykjavík Grapevine for years as part of his column “Electric Dreams.” He also used to curate the Grapevine Grassroots concert series (RIP). Not only does he have the longest name on the panel, but Alexander is also a popular DJ and event planner. If that still doesn’t impress you, he’s also a designer who makes lovely pieces of art and zines.
Geoffrey Huntington-Williams (Prikið, Sticky Plötuútgáfa)
Geoff—as he is known—is the co-owner of Prikið and founder of record label Sticky Plötuútgáfa. If you’ve somehow gone your entire existence without knowing about Prikið, it’s the premiere spot for Icelandic hip-hop and Geoff was no doubt instrumental in that. He’s a tastemaker and known for harnessing and repping emerging talents in the scene. Basically, he was listening to Aron Can before you were even born.
Sigtryggur Baldursson (Iceland Music)
Sigtryggur Baldursson, or Bogomil Font, or just the-man-with-the-hat, is an icon and legend in Icelandic music history. While in the past years, Sigtryggur has played less music, he now seeks to support new artists through ÚTON/Iceland Music, an organisation that helps musicians go abroad and introduce their talents to the world. Wait, did we forget to mention that he was a founding member of The Sugarcubes? That too.
Maria-Carmela Raso (Curator, Musician)
Maria-Carmela Raso, a Canadian-born Reykjavík-transplant, is known for her monthly concert series “Can’t think just feel” at Loft, which showcases the best of up-and-coming and established local music. To sum that up: If something is good in this small country, she’ll know about it. Outside of that, you might know her as the ethereal musician MSEA. We certainly do.
Anna Gyða Sigurgísladóttir (RÚV)
Anna Gyða is half-lawyer, half cultural-superwoman. For years, she has been a prominent radio host in Iceland’s biggest cultural radio shows at RÚV. There, she risks her neck everyday to dive into the dangerous world of the Icelandic cultural scene. We salute you, Anna Gyða.
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