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Preview by Edward Hancox.
Iceland Airwaves might just be coming home this year. It could be said that the past couple of years have been, well, below par. It could also be said that Airwaves had started to live off its formidable reputation. Don’t agree with me? Think Robyn, think Sinéad O’Connor.
Things started to improve last year with the booking of not one but several performances from Björk, and the inclusion of next-big-things Beach House. The very best of Icelandic acts combined with up-and-coming alternative acts from across the globe. This year is a wilful return to Icelandic form; headlined by superlative-inducing Sigur Rós, appearances by super popular new folksters Of Monsters And Men, and perennial favourites GusGus and Rökkurró.
Did I mention Sigur Rós? It may cost you extra to see them–the cheek of it–but this is bound to be a stand-out performance. Their new album, Valtari, is an excellent piece of work; choirs and strings, beeps and squeaks and that voice. Using the States as a warm up for this homecoming gig, this Is the pinnacle of the Valtari world tour, the bands first tour for four whole years. I’m sure Jonsí and crew will pull out all the stops for this red-letter show.
For those up-and-coming international alternatives you could try Ghostpoet, Daughter or Django Django from the UK, the Björk-endorsed Dirty Projectors or Phantogram from the US, Woodpigeon or Purity Ring from Canada, or a fair smattering of bands from other Nordic countries.
There are also some different houseguests this year; ranging from a dash of Hollywood with Exitmusic’s Aleksa Palladino who has starred in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, to Estonian folk from the improbably named Ewert and The Two Dragons.
I’m also intrigued by foreign acts that have a strong Icelandic influence such as Cheek Mountain Thief, the result of an Englishman moving to Húsavík and falling in love, ex-San Francisco resident Low Roar with his ‘How to Survive in Iceland’ theming, or The Vaccines, who surely would never be playing the festival if their bassist was not Icelandic.
The Faroe Islands may not be that far away from Iceland, but they are far removed from the global music scene. Name one Faroese band or performer. I bet you can’t. Well, the Faroese are here too; Benjamin calls himself a rock’n’roll Jesus, whilst Guðrið Hansdóttir certainly does not.
Is that not enough for you? Sometimes Airwaves provides special moments when you least expect them. Hushed acoustic performances in Fríkirkjan, heaving Swedish house music at a swimming pool, or an Icelandic superstar playing a coffee shop whilst you eat your recovery breakfast.
The Blue Lagoon hangover party is always worth dipping into; relaxing in the warm blue waters whilst listening to chilled-out beats takes some beating. The off-venue schedule usually throws up some decent surprises. However, the best surprises are the ones that are often those that are not announced at all.
As ever, the strength of Airwaves, lies in the Icelandic acts which put on extraordinary performances. This is the beating heart of Airwaves. Amongst others, Sóley, Ólafur Arnalds, Samaris, For A Minor Reflection, Lockerbie, Sin Fang and Snorri Helgason are all going to be special. They are after all, already at home.