From Iceland — Looking Back On Another Fine Year Of Music

Looking Back On Another Fine Year Of Music

Published January 15, 2010

Looking Back On Another Fine Year Of Music

We sorta abhor year-end lists over here at Grapevine HQ. At least when it comes to making them. That has always been a task, and whatever we’ve come up with in the past has in retrospect usually struck us as forced, rushed and ill thought out. Plus, being the ADD kids we are, we tend to change our minds every five minutes: “The Arcade who now? Fune-what? The best album of 2004 was totally Kanye West’s College Dropout. No, wait; it was Blood Brothers’ Crimes. Oh, forget it.”
ANYWAY, regardless of our feelings on the matter, year-end lists are always pretty popular, and we must admit we do enjoy perusing them as, ehrm, years end. They help one discover neglected gems, albums that passed by without a sound or one just plain never heard about, especially when those lists aren’t all uniform, vague and heavy on the U2. Fucking U2.
So we decided to compile some year-end lists of our own. And who better to consult about what’s going on in the world of music than the musicians themselves? No one, that’s who (at least since most critics all started regurgitating P4K’s listery)! So we went ahead and contacted some of Iceland’s finest musicians and asked them to write us lists on what had been tickling their ears all year.
You may imbibe the results of that in these following pages. Some musicians wrote a sentence or two about each item, some made fun lists of their favourite concerts or the best places to pick up girls, some numbered their lists, others refused to – it’s all in there.
And, yeah, we had our very own bunch of awesome music critics make up lists of their 2009 favourites, too (OK, we admit it, making lists can be sorta gratifying and fun. And no one consulted Pitchfork, swear to dog!).
In the immortal words of the great John Cage: Happy New Ears.

Bob Cluness
1) Ben Frost – By The Throat: This man has probably created the first true soundtrack of the Kreppa and possibly one of the most vital releases to come from Iceland in the past couple of years. And brave, honourable Iceland responded by trying to deport him! No wonder the poor bastard looks so pissed off all the time.
2) kimono – Easy Music For Difficult People: When I reviewed this, I don´t think I gave it justice as to how immediate this album is when you first listen to it. It´s truly a brilliant indie rock album.
3) Bloodgroup – Dry Land: They took their base electro sound and added several new levels of pop brilliance.
4) Sólstafir – Köld: Primordial, seething with epic aggression, and just sounded brilliant. This beat the crap out of all the other metal releases and took all their money for a laugh.
5) Sudden Weather Change – Stop! Handgrenade in the name of crib death ´nderstand?: Beating kimono to the worst album title of the year, they were full of infectious energy and punky enthusiasm. It just made me feel old listening to it!

Ragnar Egilsson
“I didn’t hear enough good Icelandic records in 2009 for a top 5. I can muster a top 3.”
1. Hildur Guðnadóttir – Without Sinking
2. Ben Frost – By The Throat
3. Kimono Easy Music For Difficult People

Sindri Eldon
#1: Plastic Gods – Quadriplegiac
Horrifying and tasteless, just what Iceland deserves.
#2: Foreign Monkeys – π
It rocked.
#3: TONIK – Form Follows
Solid as a cock.
#4: Weapons – A Ditch In Time
How could you not like this album?
#5: Retrön – Swordplay & Guitarslay
You need to turn it all the way up first, and then it will blow your mind.
#6: Úlpa – Jahilíya
I’m high right now just thinking about it.
#7: Egill S – Egill S
An album that can be both disappointing and excellent at the same time deserves mention.
#8: Hjaltalín – Terminal
Not as good as it should be, but not as bad as it could be.
#9:STEED LORD – Truth Serum
“I’m a dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty millionaire” – enough said.
#10: Agent Fresco – Lightbulb Universe
It’s very well organised.

Florian Zühlke
1) Sudden Weather Change – Stop! Handgrenade in the Name of Crib Death ‘nderstand?
I remember how impressed I was by their dissonant but huge post-core sound – first at Airwaves 2008 then on their record in the spring of 2009.
2) Muck – Vultures
A very good, dark and heavy hardcore/punk/metal record by a very young band that hopefully has its best to come.
3 ) Bob Justman – Happiness and Woe
I am still greatly enjoying the melancholic and touching, but never desperate, songs of Bob Justman. Elliot Smith’s successor seems to be Icelandic.  
4) Múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
There is nothing to complain about here: really nice Icelandic pop music.
5) AMFJ – Itemhljóð & Veinan
A dark, disturbing drone experiment – roaring and intriguing –rather than a classical record. On top there are cool electronic remixes.

Haukur S Magnússon
1. Summer As A Salvation Soldier – Nýtt EP
2. Ben Frost – By The Throat
3. Sudden Weather Change – Stop! Handgrenade In The Name Of Oppression & Alcohol
4. Hildur Guðna – Without Sinking
5. Go-Go Darkness – Go-Go Darkness
6. múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
7. Deathmetal Supersquad – Dead Zeppelin
8. Mugison – Ítrekun
9. Kimono – EM4DP
10. Snorri Helgason – I’m Gonna Put My Name On Your Door

Jóhannes Kjartansson
múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
Hjaltalín – Terminal
Sykur – Frábært eða Frábært
Tonik – Form Follows
dj. flugvél og geimskip – Rokk & róleg lög

Bob Cluness
1) The Horrors – Primary Colours: I was one of probably only 45 people who heard their 1st album (note: It was truly shit). This made it all the more remarkable that their follow up was so spectacular. Singlehandedly sparking the Krautrock revival and possibly the best guitar sounds since My Bloody Valentine.
2) Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport: the sound of a million angels off their face on E, in an Ibiza nightclub. On Mars….
3) Sunn o))) – Monoliths & Dimensions: the history of man from Neanderthal to space flight in four loud, apocalyptic stages.
4) Manatees – Icarus, the Sunclimber: Possibly one of the biggest HOPEKRUSHER albums I’ve heard in ages. Sounded so oppressive, it made my ears cry.
5) Zola Jesus: The Spoils: The best of the hypnagogic lo-fi pop to come from the US this year. Nika Danilova´s vocals sounded so haunted, like a ghostly apparition on fuzzy tape.

Ragnar Egilsson
1. HEALTH – Get Color
2. Girls – Album
3. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
4. Washed Out – Life Of Leisure
5. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
7. Nosaj Thing – Drift  
7. Hudson Mohawke – Butter  

Sindri Eldon
#1: Kent – Röd
Their best album ever? It’s quite possible.
#2: Silversun Pickups – Swoon
Where the nineties never end, but in a good way.
#3: Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavillion
Yeah, good choice Sindri, real fucking original.
#4: Sparks – The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman
The weirdness continues.
#5: Electric Six – Kill
The awesomeness continues.

Florian Zühlke
1) Thrice – Beggars
Thrice evolved into a very good alternative rock band long ago, even managing to record a set of concept EPs (The Alchemy Index) without becoming awkward. Beggars is their latest and catchiest album, it brings more exciting details with every listen – Epic!
2) Gallows – Grey Britain
Somehow I overlooked this amazing young band’s début two years ago, but Grey Britain’s raw, aggressive, honest hardcore punk made me a fan of these heavily tattooed Brits.  
3) Ruiner – Hell Is Empty
Hell is Empty is so emotional, so honest that it gives me shivers down my spine with every listen. This is how hardcore should sound, but doesn’t any more since Modern Life Is War split up.
4) Behemoth – Evangelion
Maybe the best Death / Black Metal band around – and fortunately a non-fascist one.
5) Rise and Fall – Our Circle is Vicious
Into Oblivion was evil, downtuned and good; Our Circle is Vicious, adds more experimentation, more variety and better songwriting to Rise and Fall’s metallic hardcore – and thus makes it one of my top five records 2009.

Haukur S Magnússon
1.Japandroids – Post-Nothing
2. Converge – Axe To Fall
3. Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall
4. jj – jj no 2
5. A Sunny Day In Glasgow – A Sunny Day In Glasgow
6. A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head
7. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue
8. Jay Z – III
9. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
10. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
11. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
12. Atlas Sound – Logos

Jóhannes Kjartansson
Tiga – Ciao
Data – Skywriter
Vitalic – Flashmob
Boys Noize – Power
Moderat – Moderat
Joakim – Milky Ways
The Whitest Boy Alive – Rules
Zombie Nation – Zombielicious
Jori Hulkkonen – Man From Earth
The Bloody Beetroots – Romborama
Fukkk Offf – Love Me Hate Me Kiss Me Kill Me
Kings of Convenience – Declaration of Dependence

Bob Cluness
Klink, Celestine and Retrön @ Dillon, Oct ´09: One of the few times recently that I’ve been truly terrified for my life. It was a truly mental moment of crushing live metal.
Mínus and HAM, Friday night @ Eistnaflug, July ´09: Was a great night for music but I don´t remember much about that. This was because I performed my only Good Samaritan act of the year and acted as a human shield to two metal heads in wheelchairs so they could watch at the front of the crowd. They had a great time, while I got 500 moshers going all Drum and Bass on my kidneys and spine. For two hours. Refreshing!
In the rock/metal universe, you´re probably going to hear a lot from power trio Ghost Aircraft. They just released their debut album over Christmas and will probably be the standard bearers for that post hardcore sound in 2010. And the debut album by Severed Crotch should be lacerating our eardrums as well.
In the Electro world, 2010 sees the debut from Captain Fufanu, while Pedro Pilatus (the solo project of Retro Stefsson´s Logi Pedró) should be getting a lot more attention.
Finally look out for the debut release from Daníel Bjarnason in February 2010 from those folks at the Bedroom community. It will finally make you like neo-classical music. Honest, I swear!

Bergrún Anna Hallsteinsdóttir
Top 5 Artists To Watch In 2010
1. Ojba Rasta
2. Sykur
3. Ólafur Arnalds
4. Skelkur í bringu
5. Stereo Hypnosis

Ragnar Egilsson
“Make your own new next big thing in 2010 mix and match genre terms! Get your fix of the hottest prefixes and suffixes! Watch them take temporary root in 2010!”
Congratulations! You have now grown your very own musical chimera! Now unleash the beast on the world, watch it tear the blogworld apart for up to three weeks before it’s abominable heart is pierced with snark and it gives up the ghost on a ten minute special on BBC2.

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