Review by Nanna Árnadóttir.
Stafraenn Hákon has been around for years, so one thing mastermind Ólafur Josephsson has in his arsenal is experience. He knows how to put together an album because he’s done six of them already and you can tell when you listen to Sanitas that each song weaves into the next like a tightly-knitted sock (the thick wooly kind).
The record sounds like a road trip—I know that’s a strange statement but just go with me on this. A road trip, that’s where this album belongs. In your car, on a long drive.
When I listen to it, I see an odd collection of nomads sitting in a beat-up 20-year-old brown Volvo driving through the country. A blonde head sticks out the back window and the wind makes her hair dance.
Let’s make this clear: It’s not stuck-in-traffic music, it’s not getting-it-on-in-the-backseat music. This album requires forward momentum and clear roads. You might think this sounds like an effort but the album deserves to be appreciated in these conditions.
Sanitas is rockier than Stafraenn Hákon’s previous records, which have been a little more ambient guitar-electronica, but it works. There’s a very consistent ‘core’ to Icelandic music overall that Stafraenn Hákon has whether they realizes it or not.
This could be because the entire Icelandic music scene is composed of like 12 people that rotate bands daily but actually it could be this common Icelandic influence with its occasional dark distorted electronic noise and the ambience of a volatile nature.
Sanitas is less obvious than that, though, there is an influence of what makes Icelandic music so compelling and then it’s elevated through collaborations with Samuel White to name one contributor among many.
What I like about Sanitas is the narration. Even the lyric-less intro “Minning um Deig” (“A Memory of You”) is telling you a story that you almost know even if you haven’t been told what the memory entails. Another tender gem was “Bright”.
That being said this isn’t a strictly musical album, there are definitely lyrics to be heard, but I feel like Sanitas lets the music take center stage with rich lo-fi post-rock instrumental intervals filled with trumpets and rich acoustics.
The only real disappointment to me might actually be a big crowd pleaser. “Provisional Meat” (Stafraenn Hákon have some surreal song titles—you’ve been warned) which started off a little Mogwai but then in the verse sounded like a Foo Fighters ballad caught me a little off guard.
My big favorite of the album was “Val Kilmer” which was refreshingly grandiose, tainted with a sense of doom that wasn’t overbearing or depressing but rather secretly exciting.
The whole album ‘fits’. There isn’t one song that doesn’t cohesively connect with the others in some way but at the same time no one song sounds the same. Which is why it’s like a road trip.
Fluid and seamless like a stretch of highway and all the while some parts, like the people, stay the same but you’re never in the same place.
And much like a road trip, it isn’t where you end up that matters. It’s the journey that counts and Sanitas is one ride worth sticking your thumb out for.
Click here to listen to a clip of track #1 “Minning um Deig” from Sanitas by Stafraenn Hákon.
Nanna Árnadóttir – [email protected]
Nanna Árnadóttir is a journalist by day, musical garbage disposal by night. All kinds of musical genres are consumed and processed in her mind. Although she is an avid hip-hop head she likes all music that is passionate, beautiful and honest. Since moving to Iceland in 2009 she has taken a special interest in the sonic fruits of her native country.