From Iceland — Track By Track: ‘Fjallaloft’ By Moses Hightower

Track By Track: ‘Fjallaloft’ By Moses Hightower

Published October 4, 2017

Track By Track: ‘Fjallaloft’ By Moses Hightower
Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Hörður Sveinsson

Moses Hightower is known for skillful playing, soothing voices, and advanced compositions. A live review from the Grapevine once said their performance, “[made] the audience feel like they were right in the band’s living room.” The group recently released their third album, so relax in your living room and enter the world of ‘Fjallaloft’ (‘Mountain Air’).

The organ, bass and drums in ‘Trúnó’ are the oldest recordings on the album. We had some spare studio time after recording a jingle for a recycling PSA in…2013? Holy crap, the song is that old! We liked the spontaneous, lopsided feel of that session so we kept it. The lyrics, like the song, convey the sort of dream logic that governs late night conversations.

We had the darnedest time figuring ‘Fjallaloft’ out. We liked the chorus, the verse, the outro, but they were clearly from three different songs. After a while, we stopped trying to make the parts fit and instead made them even more disjointed. Suddenly it became a song that made us smile.

We don’t generally do “fast”, but this song comes pretty close. We wrote it as a kind of slow burner, but then got bored and decided to give it a shot in the arm. The result is probably the peppiest song ever written about a person lying absolutely still.

‘Geim’ is a sweet ballad about the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacting Jupiter framed as an ill-advised one night stand. Yeah, not very subtle. There’s also a terrestrial love story going on which has a happier ending.

This is our first song featuring guitarist Danni’s beautiful lead vocals. Our first attempts at recording a country song were a little too onthenose, but after a while Maggi came up with a pattern of overdubbed percussion that we felt put it into a space of its own.

‘Skyttan’ is a bit of a Frankensong. The verse is the head of a depressed gospel preacher grafted onto the body of the chorus, which is a Honda Civic driven by pimply teenagers listening to The Chronic in 1994.

Maggi spent the Decembers of his youth wearing a band costume
, playing Christmas songs with a school band in a strange and wonderful place called Mjóddin—a mini-mall and bus terminal that today seems like a 1980s ruined cathedral. The call-and-response bridge was a late addition—the song was a little too smooth and needed a shake-up towards the end.

This guitar riff had been kicking around Danni’s brain for years. One day we put a Jobimesque melody to it with lyrics that starts out as a sweet letter home but quickly goes off-script.

Suma daga
This is probably our favorite performance on ‘Fjallaloft. Maggi played two lighters into a microphone, flicking them on and off until his fingers bled. The breathing sounds are Steini at the piano. He tried to be quiet, but the mics were turned up really loud so it sounds like we called in Darth Vader to play sexy piano.

Ýmis mál
By this point, we’d had enough of trying to make pop music out of everything, so we just went to town on the chorus. At this moment, decades of playing tasteful and understated beats finally wore Maggi down. Deep within, something snapped. A herd of nameless beasts stampeded behind his bloodshot eyes as his sticks bore down on the drums like meteors. Then it was over, but we all saw it. And we were afraid.

There’s a guitar playing in the desert, Andri crooning about intimacy and uncertain silences, and also some polyphonic harmony goblins. Then it comes back home to the warm guitar, and hopefully everyone’s left feeling happy.

Read more music articles here. Read out interview about the album here.

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