From Iceland — Straumur: Mountains Between Mountains

Straumur: Mountains Between Mountains

Published April 20, 2017

Straumur: Mountains Between Mountains

Músíktilraunir, the annual Icelandic Battle of the Bands, was held a couple of weeks ago. The winning band was Between Mountains: an impressive duo comprising two young girls from the Westfjords, Katla Vigdís Vernharðsdóttir (16 years old) and and Ásrós Helga Guðmundsdóttir (14). They get their name because they’re from different fjords, so there’s a mountain between them and more on either side. They played keyboards and xylophone, exhibiting songwriting skills way beyond their years. Both have beautiful singing voices that harmonise in their crafty, melodic songs. Think twee indie bands like Belle and Sebastian mixed with the girly irreverence of Moldy Peaches.

The Músíktilraunir competition has for the past two decades been very relevant in the Icelandic scene, with its winners or finalists often becoming Iceland’s most valuable musical exports. Samaris won in 2011, with the singer Jófríður Ákadóttir having started out in Músíktilraunir in 2009, with her twin sister, in the indie-folk duo Pascal Pinon. Of Monsters and Men won the competition in 2010, and went on to tour the world. Even Jónsi from Sigur rós was in a band called Bee Spiders that landed the title “most promising band” in the Músíktilraunir of 1995. And that’s not even mentioning bands like Maus, Botnleðja, Mínus, Mammút and Jakobínarína, who defined a decade of Icelandic music. So in light of all this, we expect great things from Between the Mountains in the future.

In recent columns we’ve talked about the experimental pop duo Andy Svarthol, who should be getting way more love than they’re currently getting. Their latest song, “Tímafrekja” (“Time-pushiness”) is quite epic—more of a journey than a banger. It starts out with gentle synth pads and treated guitars in the vein of dream pop virtuosos Galaxie 500. Around the three-minute mark it really leaves the ground with magnificent choir synths that escalate the song into balls-trippin’ outer space excellence. We’re really looking forward for a full LP from those guys.

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