From Iceland — Grapevine New Music Picks: Daniil, Ólafur Arnalds, Sævar Jóhannsson & More

Grapevine New Music Picks: Daniil, Ólafur Arnalds, Sævar Jóhannsson & More

Published March 27, 2023

Photo by
Joana Fontinha

We have an absolutely stacked new music list for you this week. It’s literally something for everyone on this list — Gen Z rapping, neoclassical simplicty, intense goth-metal, pocket-symphonic bombastic pop, country-rock sadness, bedroom electropop, and some jazzy versions of Björk classics. We really hit the bullseye on range and we’re quite proud of it! We also have great news that we have kicked off a podcast to highlight some of the week’s new music! You can listen to The Reykjavík Grapevine New Music & Events Roundup show on Radio 101 on Thursdays at 17:00, and then catch the New Music Show on our site on Fridays. And now, onto the tunes!

​​Daniil — 600
Released March 24

Regardless of who you are, it’s an impressive feat to garner over a million plays on a track. It’s an even more impressive feat to accomplish when you’re an Icelandic artist, rapping in Icelandic for a domestic market. Somehow, Daniil pulled it off, joining the crowd of jet-set Icelandic artists. The single “EF ÞEIR VILJA BEEF” off his newest LP 600, featuring fellow hip-hop artist Joey Christ, currently stands in approximately 1,060,000 plays on Spotify. The album shows Daniil as a multifaceted artist, with in-your-face attitude tracks “10 AF 10”, as well as his more mellow side in “BAKVIÐ GRÍMUNA”. Icelandic hip-hop at its best, 600 is out now, with a vinyl release on its way. JB

Ólafur Arnalds — and we’ll leave it there…
Released March 23

Ólafur Arnalds has acknowledged that he, like many of us, is guilty of doomscrolling. What sets him apart from the regular folk is the fact that his secret pleasure leads to creating music, rather than just aimlessly wasting time. Ólafur revealed that it was through social media that he connected with the emerging singer-songwriter Ella McRobb and collaborated on “and we’ll leave it there…” — it’s nothing short of a beautiful sensual experiment. Grapevine approved. IZ

PORT — Port
Released March 23

What the world needs now is some intense dark rock, and damn it if PORT aren’t gonna give you exactly that. The debut LP by this supergroup band comprising members from Mannveira, Abominor and Mókrókar is a slow-burn of disillusioned gothic dirges. The band came together from a shared disaffection about the local music scene and wanted to make something totally their own. It’s safe to say that we haven’t heard anything quite like this from Iceland in a while — it’s the makeout-metal for black-clad baddies we’ve been craving. RX

Heiðrik á Heygum — Heiðrik Sings the Björk Song Book
Released March 4

Following the grand tradition of the songbook album, Faroese artist Heiðrik (aka Heiðrikur á Heygum,) has just released this collection of interpretations of our modern standard, the one and only Björk. While not “strictly” Icelandic, Heiðrik has spent large amounts of time here and has collaborated with artists such as Janus Rasmussen. The songs are fully stripped down and acoustic, ranging from jazz-pop to torch song classic. Like a lounge-lizard on the outskirts of Las Vegas crooning in a smoky room. The Rufus Wainwright-esque version of “Come To Me” is a particular standout, almost reminiscent of the Twin Peaks soundtrack song “Sycamore Trees”. Björk in the Black Lodge? Why not! RX

Hákon Hjaltalín — Out of Sight
Release March 17

One of the more surprising tracks of the week, Hákon Hjaltalín delivers a wall-of-sound production with “Out of Sight”. The track has distinct influences, and they rock. Evocative of Harry Nilsson’s songwriting, ELO’s big symphonic pop arrangements, and the Beach Boys’ vocal harmonies, Hákon has made a grand entrance. Hailing originally from Sauðárkrókur in the north of Iceland, Hákon has studied music in Reykjavík, and although having released an album previously, it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere online. If you want to be transported back to the year 1971, give this a listen. It certainly blew me away. JB

Laufey Elíasdóttir — Haertbrake
Released March 17

This country-influenced track is the third single from the multi-talented artist Laufey Elíasdóttir. A theatre and film actress, photographer, visual artist, and now musician, “Haertbrake” expresses the artist’s experience with the grief of losing a loved one. We’ve all been there, right? Laufey’s tender yet fragile vocal delivery evokes strong feelings. Pair that up with the slick, prickly electric guitars that would make Nashville proud, “Haertbrake” is a fine piece of music when you’re looking for a sombre and serene mood. JB

deep.serene – fade away
Released March 19

Having released her debut album ‘X’ in December 2022, solo producer-performer Halldóra Aguirre, aka deep.serene, has now brought us a brand new single. The smooth, darkened electropop jam is both minimalist and textured at once, full of cool synth pads and skittering muted beats. Her sensual vocals deliver the (possibly) sad-sounding lyrics with emotional nuance. This up-and-coming bedroom artist is definitelty one to keep an eye on. RX

Sævar Jóhannsson — The Wound
Released March 24

Last but certainly not least, our Grapevine Music Award “You Should Have Heard This”-winner has a brand new track out today. Never failing to wow us with his piano-prowess, Sævar’s latest single is a subtle, soundtrack-like, avant-pop burner that really fits this winter-to-spring transitional gloom. Feeling like something you’d stare out the window at the rain to, or contemplate the entire spectrum of human emotion, it’s one to just let yourself slow down to. Sævar will also be hosting the Piano Day concert at Mengi next Wednesday, March 29th, which we also highly recommend! RX

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