Published July 14, 2017
The Icelandic music scene outgrew the country’s physical borders a long time ago. But for people unable to attend concerts in Reykjavík, it can be challenging to follow developments in the scene. “Discover Iceland” is a new compilation album by Alda Music, which showcases some of the most interesting artists currently performing.
The album takes you on an avant-garde pop journey across Iceland. Touching on some of the best the country’s music scene has to offer. The title “Discover Iceland” is incredibly apt, as the music feels like it was chosen to fit travelling the rural parts of the island. It is music you want to listen to while beaming down Road 1, whooshing past mountain after mountain as the rain beats your windshield.
If you are interested in Icelandic music, then “Discover Iceland” is the perfect jumping-off point into the deep end of the country’s vast talent pool.
Kaleo: In 2015, the blues rockers relocated to Austin, Texas and have since risen to ever greater prominence, with their single ‘Way Down We Go’ reaching number 1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart. ‘Save Yourself’ is a modern blues number to a tee, with the title clearly alluding to Deep South Christianity.
Júníus Meyvant: Arctic soul is probably the best term to use for Júníus Meyvant. ‘Beat Silent Need’ shares many similarities with Northern soul, as its rhythm is rawer and more fast paced than the typical soul standard. The singer has claimed that he wrote the song about being bullied and fittingly it is very much a tour de force.
Jónas Sigurðsson: Jónas has been around the block on the Icelandic music scene, starting out as a hit pop maker in the 90s. ‘Vígin falla’, despite its title meaning ‘the walls coming down’, is the most upbeat track on the album. The song is driven on by a groovy bass line and catchy brass.
Samaris: Formed in 2011, they started out making captivating lyrics in Icelandic, but last year the trio switched notes into the lingua franca. ‘Wanted 2 Say’ is the band’s first song with English lyrics, and singer Jófríður lays a haunting vocal track over an electro-pop song, which is propped up by a d’n’b breakbeat.
Hildur: Last year, her song ‘Walk With You’ was voted Iceland’s best pop song, and ‘Full of You’ is a similarly catchy number—although with a darker tone. She has her roots in more ambient music, but her transition into a more mainstream sound has been effortless.
Axel Flovent: One of the younger rising stars in the country, at 21 his talents surpass his age. Axel comes from a small fishing village and fittingly makes classic modern folk music. ‘Quiet Eyes’ is a soft ballad with a slow beat—perfect for a rainy day in Reykjavík.
Sóley: One of the more talented multi-instrumentalists in Iceland. Sóley started out in the indie-folk band Seabear, but has now moved onto her synonymous solo project. ‘Grow’ has a powerful crescendo throughout and a soothing piano part that almost seems to dance on the northern lights.
Starwalker: Barði Jóhannsson has a fair claim to the title of the king of the Icelandic avant-garde. Starwalker could be labeled as somewhat of a “supergroup”, as it is a collaboration with one half of the French duo Air, Jean-Benoit Dunckel. ‘Get Me’ is a catchy, yet anguished pop number with Barði’s characteristically soft vocals almost teasing listeners with its rhythmic delivery.
Moses Hightower: The Reykjavík based quartet has been making audiences bob their heads slowly in appreciation of their grooves since 2007. With this funk heavy number, Moses Hightower kick the sensuality into fifth gear as the smooth vocals cut through you like butter.
Bang Gang and Esther Talia: Another Barði Jóhansson project, the comically named Bang Gang has long since established itself as an internationally renowned act. On ‘Dive into the Deep Blue Sea’, Barði shares vocals with singer Esther Talia on this slow paced mythical track.
Vök: The band started by winning Músíktilraunir–the Icelandic version of Battle of the Bands. ‘Show Me’ is a song of two halves, jumping back and forth between quiet ambiance and snare drum driven swaying pop.
GDRN: Many of the tracks on the compilation are delivered in English, but ‘Ein’—meaning alone—is made up of beautiful Icelandic vocals, delivered with unreal emotion. GDRN is very new to the scene, but if this track is anything to go by, then she is one to watch.
Ólafur Arnalds, Arnor Dan and Lambert: Ólafur Arnalds started out as a metal drummer, Arnor Dan sings in the hard to define metal band Agent Fresco and Lambert makes mostly piano based soft pop. On ‘Take My Leave of You’ they come together to make this sorrowful track that mixes electro with classical piano.
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Yki Numata Resnick, Tarn Travers, Ben Russell and Clarice Jensen: There is hardly a better way to end the “Discover Iceland” compilation than with ‘Flight from the City’. The ultimate collaboration on the album, the track is a quiet ambient song that seems tailor made for meditating somewhere in the Icelandic outback.