Iceland Airwaves built its reputation as a destination festival not by booking loads of big names, but because it’s the single best place to see the freshest faces on the Icelandic music scene. This year, 32 bands will play Airwaves for the very first time—here’s our guide to what’s new and who’s who amongst this year’s festival debutantes.
Allenheimer is the artist name of Atli Bollason, a well known music expert in Iceland and a poster child for the hipster concept (in a good way). He released a very presentable album in the end of October, full of smart and slow electro compositions with a hypnotic kind of mood. VG
Ari Árelíus’s music focuses on capturing the existence of an outsider by fusing tunes from jazz and rock, and adding a comic Wes Anderson-esque feel into the mix. He describes himself as: “a creator in a loving relationship with the moon—formally since last September.” Intrigued? We certainly are. CES
You may know Arnar Úlfur, aka Arnar Freyr Frostason, from the band Úlfur Úlfur—but did you know that he recently released his very own solo album? Entitled “Hasarlífstíll,” his solo debut has been very well received by the homeland media. Expect energetic autobiographical rap expressing his life experiences as an Icelandic man. CES
A bit of a fake news debutante, this one, as Árni is the former frontman of everyone’s favourite legendary glitter-covered krútt-pop party-starters FM Belfast. His bluesy solo project, however, graces the festival for the first time. Expect more whiskey and fewer moshpits. JR
Having spent her youth listening to Icelandic folk music and female pop voices on her parent’s livingroom floor, Árný spent years trying to imitate their otherworldly sounds. Now writing and performing her own electroacoustic pop compositions, Árný has blossomed into an accomplished singer whose music reveals her reflections on life. CES
Ateria were the winners of the 2018 edition of Músiktilraunir, Iceland’s national battle-of-the-bands contest. A trio aged—at the time—between 12 and 17 years, their music is sedate and lo-fi, so (assuming they manage to evade venue security and take the stage) expect a chill and atmospheric set of downtempo songs with keyboard and violin flourishes. JR
Austurvígstöðvarnar devote their music to calling out social injustice, particularly in relation to the inefficiencies of the Icelandic government. Fed up with political corruption and abuse of power in Iceland, the six members of the band create lyrics and songs as a direct response to political scandals. Their first rock album, “Radio Satan,” came out in June 2018. CES
If you’ve been craving an afro-house DJ duo named Björk and Birna, boy, have we got the group for you. After playing at various underground events in Denmark and Cape Town, B1B2 is here to make you groovy and woozy. HJC
Now and then a new band springs up with so much enthusiasm that a whole scene seems to mushroom around them. So it is with energetic indie-pop band Bagdad Brothers, who heralded the arrival of “post-dreifing”—a teeming arts collective throwing parties, releasing music, planning exhibitions, and generally having a lovely great time. Check them out for a lungful of fresh energy. JR
Bergur Andersen is a well-known figure on the Icelandic music scene, and has been in countless great bands over the years. When he moved to The Netherlands, he found himself all alone, and so, Berghaim was born. A concept project with a lo-fi acid-fried sound and a weird visual universe, this is a intriguingly experimental highlight amongst this year’s crop of Airwaves newbies. JR
At only 18 years old, Bríet took the Icelandic music scene by storm this year with her debut single “In Too Deep.” A mix of electro-pop and R&B, Bríet’s tunes combine breathy sultriness with earworm melodies with a relaxed trap vibe. If there’s one artist that’ll please both the mainstream and indie crowds, it’s Bríet. One to watch. HJC
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