Iceland Airwaves is nearly upon us. Despite its descent further into the winter months (I’m sure it used to be earlier in October), and the risk of a sulphurous fog overwhelming everything, excitement is building. Yes, the off-venue schedule is going to be crazy, Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips will probably be crazier, and you will at some point end up drunk in a hotpot with a bunch of Icelanders. But who to see? Let me give you 14 suggestions.
14. Sísý Ey
This is the project of sisters Elín, Elisabet and Sigríður Eyþórsdóttir with producer Oculus on board to provide house beats, over which the sisters provide sumptuous vocals. On the verge of something huge, this dance act are about to release their debut album but not before they’ve proven themselves to be Airwaves late night band of choice.
13. Lily the Kid
Actually Lilja K. Jónsdóttir, a singer/songwriter and her producer/brother Hallur Jónsson, Lilja was formerly the front woman of the well known Bloodgroup. This is breathy, intimate vocals over Nordic electro pop if Pedro is anything to go by. Worth seeking out.
12. Low Roar
Once just Ryan Katazija and his guitar/laptop, Low Roar have gained a number of band members, a stage presence and following to match. Aided by Mike Lindsay from Tuung, Mr. Silla, and various members of Amiina, Low Roar have a lush, deep sound revolving around Ryan’s fragile folk songs but are clearly not afraid of electronics, looping or occasionally breaking into dance.
A trio of talented musicians including a saxophonist, Vök sound so Icelandic, if that’s possible, whilst at the same time falling between The XX & Portishead, with a helping of slow R&B. Vök are both enigmatic and sexy, as latest single ‘Tension’ proves. If you go alone, expect to make new friends.
Not actually a bird, but Jón Valur Guðmundsson, a 26-year-old singer/songwriter from Reykjavík, who has taken the moniker ‘bird’ for his new music project. Described as “catchy, lush melancholia, and minimalistic arrangements” this chap definitely shares similarities with Ásgeir, who he has previously worked with. Add your own ‘bird’ joke here. Does he use Twitter? Soaring melodies etc....
9. Yumi Zouma
From the opposite side of the world, New Zealand’s Yumi Zouma produce pop loveliness that delivers like Empire of the Sun without all the bombast. Catchy melodies and seductive vocals that are both fresh and retro. They’ve made the journey to get here. The least you can do is to go see them.
After being away for a while, then returning with a puzzling muted EP, Sóley is due a return to form. Promising tracks from her new album, the First Lady of krútt is bound to impress with her quirky piano pop, especially as she is performing at Fríkirkjan. Can you think of a better way to spend an evening?
7. East India Youth
The only entry on my list from my native U.K., Mr. William Doyle aka East India Youth presents a side of British music that didn’t from a talent contest or a panel of suited executives. Named after East India docks in London, this is clever, intellectual dance music with occasional floaty vocals and smart samples. Oh, and Hinterland might just blow your mind.
Farao is Norwegian songstress Kari Jahnsen, although Kari might have well and truly been bitten by the Icelandic bug. Heavily influenced by the Icelandic music scene, Farao produces delightful, experimental electronic folk not a million miles away from Jónsi’s quieter moments or even Pascal Pinon.
5. Young Karin
Young Karin (formerly known as Highlands) are Logi Pedro Stefánsson from Retro Stefson and the very talented Karin Sveinsdóttir. Ignore the contractual based name-change, Young Karin are ready formed, ready to take on the dance floors of Reykjavík, and seemingly, my headphones.
The current darlings of the Icelandic music scene are just about to embark on a Europe wide tour. They are very much on form, if their ATP performance earlier in the year is anything to go on. Ignore the hype and see for yourself this intriguing mix of Jófríður’s vocals, clarinet (no, really!) and mixed up beats.
Iceland’s favorite son returns home after seemingly playing every country in the world over the last year. Standing the test is debut album In the Silence which despite the repeated plays (in both languages) only seems to mature and grow with each listen. Expect a cameo appearance from partner in crime John Grant.
2. Future Islands
Future Islands have actually been around for a while, but have only recent caught the attention of many, partly due to the peculiar dancing habits of frontman Samuel T. Herring, who come across like a drunken dad crossed with an earnest Morrissey. The songs stand alone though, with keyboard and guitars providing the perfect foil for songs of the heart.
Like old friends, Rökkurró have been around for a while. This time though it’s different. After over a year of teasing (singles, limited edition releases, photos of the band eating ice cream) Hildur and crew are poised to make Airwaves 2014 their own. With a brand new album due for release the week before, and a closing show on Sunday, Rökkurró are strategically getting their lush, melodic music into the hearts of everyone, anywhere.
Follow Iceland Review’s special Iceland Airwaves coverage as the festival kicks off.