It’s a two for one special this month: I’ve been listening to two of Svavar Knútur’s albums, Kvöldvaka (“Campfire Songs”) and Amma (“Grandma”).
Svavar Knútur comes from the isolated and bleak West Fjords and you can hear it his music. I’m not saying it’s depressing but rather that there’s a kind of redemption in honest music like this. What is it about troubadours that people love so much, I wonder?
This question lays the foundation for my listening to these two albums because this isn’t usually the kind of music I am drawn to.
Icelandic music gets a lot of attention and I think Icelandic musicians also play up to the quirky weirdness of our country with fun costumes and wildness. I love it. But this is not what Svavar Knútur’s music conjures up in me.
There aren’t a lot of instruments involved in these albums and there is zero glitz, this man is not the polished product of a record label, in fact he sort of looks like the type who might not even recognize a razor if he saw one. This is perhaps why I find Svavar Knútur’s albums so charming.
It’s simple, unpretentious and the lyricism is touching and authentic. Here’s an example of some lyrics from the song “It’s Your Life” that I found very special.
I won’t attempt to save you, I won’t attempt to drag you from your fate I only hope you’ll call on me before you sink too deep and it’s too late
No bullshit, no drama, how wonderful!
Meanwhile his voice is warm, sweet and light, a bit like whipped cream melting on a hot pie.
As for his cover album Amma, it’s hard not to like it as an Icelandic person, because it brings up all these memories of spending afternoons in your grandmother’s house with the smell of burnt coffee and sugared pancakes. On it you’ll struggle to hear more than a guitar, a ukulele (my new favorite instrument) and maybe a piano.
Kvöldvaka is older, came out in 2009 in fact, and also has a few English-speaking tracks whereas Amma (2010), a tribute to his grandmother and Icelandic folk music, is all in Icelandic.
Both are a little slow-paced; I would have liked perhaps a few more upbeat songs if only because there’s a danger of boredom.
The cover art of both albums nearly put me off as well; it doesn’t make the albums very attractive (although it is a little cute that the illustrations were made by Svavar Knútur’s daughter) but the substance of the music makes up for that a lot.
Don’t judge a book by its cover as our grandmothers tell us.
Amma and Kvöldvaka are may be purchased from gogoyoko.com as well as all respectable Icelandic record shops.
Nanna Árnadóttir – [email protected]
Nanna Árnadóttir is a writer 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. She has a special interest in the sonic fruits of her native country.