From Iceland — Oh, Boy (bands)! : Harpa Norðurljós Pt. II

Oh, Boy (bands)! : Harpa Norðurljós Pt. II

Published November 4, 2012

Oh, Boy (bands)! : Harpa Norðurljós Pt. II

It seems like everyone here for Ásgeir Trausti’s set is actually here to listen.

I’m guessing as much because, for the first time at this year’s festival, I’m hearing a lot of shushing.

“You’ve never seen him play before?” a girl standing next to me in the hall says to her friend before the set begins.

“No, why?” her friend retorts. “How often have you seen him?”

“Twice,” she says. “I’ve seen him twice.”

Combine the come-hither-girl sensuality and swagger of a ‘90s boy-band, with a Jeff Buckley falsetto and the brooding sensibilites of Bon Iver, and you have something of a logical explanation for why Ásgeir Trausti was this summer’s break-through act in Iceland.

I can’t help it, but something in the scars of my boyband-loving ’90s youth is responding to this. I get it. It’s neat; a romantic fantasy. Ásgeir sounds like Bon Iver without the haunting echoes of emptiness. His minimalism is effective and the whole production is well-rounded, well executed. Yet there is something in me which doth protest. Does anyone’s inner life actually sound like this? Isn’t it all too neat, somehow? He’s not plumbing the depths of any emotional life which I can relate to—he’s barely scratching the surface. But at that, he surely is good. No doubt, it tickles.

Pick Me Up.

Vacationer came to Airwaves upon winning a competition, and so I feel a bit hesitant about reviewing them. I mean—you’ve already won, guys!

They are four boys in button-ups (not buttoned all the way up, just for the record) and they remind me A LOT of the guys I went to middle school with in upstate N.Y.

They dance, moreover, like a lot of the guys I went to college with (in upstate N.Y.) which is to say I’m getting a distinct liberal-arts-college vibe from all of this. Which is, furthermore, to say that they sound a lot like Vampire Weekend.

“I see a glow stick,” says the lead singer. “Let’s have a party.”

They are embarassingly naïve, and grateful to be here, and I like this about them a lot. They’re not faking anything, not pretending to be something they’re not. They’re blissfully happy in their optimism. And man, I respect that. I really am picking up what they’re putting down. Not that I would ever listen to this. But I can see why other people might want to.

“I wish I could be more charismatic and think of better things to say” says the lead singer at the next interval between songs.

I went on a date like this once. He picked me up at my parent’s house and we went out for dinner and he asked me about what kind of movies I liked. I think he may have said this exact sentence. I think he might like this band. I never called him again.

Girls with Guitars.

Boy by Rúnar Sigurður Sigurjónsson

Then came the girls of Boy: intimate, understated, captivating. Two girls with guitars, sporting minimalism at its best. Boy was really stunning, actually—they walk at a pace that is easy to fall into. And I appreciate their emphasis on lyricism. Boy writes songs about everyday things that somehow avoid triteness completely. Rather, the songs are open, earnest, intuitive. The best thing about their simple guitar-vocal arrangements is that they offer a glimpse into some inner life that is real, and tangible. The compositions are not epic in their scope, but certainly accomplished in their feeling.

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