A Collection of Icelandic Album Reviews by Wim Van Hooste

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Eliza Newman Geirsdóttir "Heimþrá"

Eliza is homesick 
Eliza Newman Geirsdóttir was frontwoman of the girlpower band from Keflavík "Kolrassa Krókrídandi", who later had a small breakthrough on the British islands under the name "Bellatrix". Frontlady Eliza and some other members of the group relocated to Great Britain to make it in London and the suburbs. After the end of Bellatrix, she did some courses to improve her voice. Meanwhile she recorded with some friends a rock album under the name Skandinavia, indeed with a k. She became a trained opera singer, who also plays the violin, the guitar, the ukulele as well as the piano. In London she was a singing-teacher until a few months ago, when she moved back to Niceland. In 2007 she was able to make her first solo album "Empire Fall", which was released on her own Lavaland Records label. This was a resolute and powerful rock album from a rock bitch. Her second album, "Pie In The Sky", was released on the Sugarcubes label Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) back in 2009. This sequel is unfortunately somewhat softer to my personal taste, and contained among others the song "Ukulele song for you", with ukulele sounds of course. The volcanic eruption of the EFJ gave her 10 minutes of world fame, as she explained the pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull on the Al Jazeera channel as a British/Icelandic songmaker; by the way a song of her 2nd album. With this third album (Geimsteinn / Lava Land Records, 2012) she expresses her longing for her real home, hence the title "Heimþrá" (homesick or homelonging), and therefore is completely sung in Icelandic. 6 of the 10 songs are this time of her hand (sometimes written with the help of Gisli Kristjánsson), the strongest song is "Stjörnuryk" (stardust) The other four are Icelandic poems, which were put on music by Eliza, title track and "Þú veizt" are my favorites. The album calls to mind singers like Vilhjálmur Vilhjámsson, Berþóra Arnadottir, Gunnar Thordarson and the band Spilverk Þjóðanna. The album is dedicated to her mother Eygló Thorsteinsdottir. In conclusion: a tranquil record with cute, cozy, sometimes airy songs, perfect to listen to on a lazy Sunday or a manic Monday morning.

More here @ Soundcloud http://soundcloud.com/eliza-newman
Buy the songs here @ Icelandic Music http://www.icelandicmusic.com/Music/Album/965354/eliza_newman/heimthra/
Or follow her on FaceBook http://www.facebook.com/elizanewmanmusic

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dýrðin "Gull og vitleysa"

In 1994 the band Dýrðin (pronounced "Deer-thin") was formed in Reykjavík. Einar and Maggi were the founders, both with a background in many underground rock bands. Over the years the workforce underwent a number of changes. In 2004, after long pauses, a stable formation was reached, which in 2005 went on tour in the United States of America. In New York City, they played a year later with their idols The Icicles. The drummer Tóti, an ancien in the scene (Reptile, Bubbleflies and Vonbrigði), offered his talent. In 2006, a first record was released on the American label Skipping Stones Records. Most of the songs on their debut album were in Icelandic. Their sound can be described as indie funpunkpop with "twee" influences. Einar’s sister Hafdís, the Icelandic Debbie Harry, took the vocals for her account.
Last year it was time for a second child: "Gull og vitleysa" (Gold and nonsense), released by the band itself. The 11 songs, partly in English, partly in Icelandic, pass by in a rapid speed. "Snowman Song" is a cover of The Icicles. The best tracks in this furious flow are: "Eins og
êú", "Goldfish" and "Lúser". Now it's bedtime, loser.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nóra "Himinbrim"

Multi-instrumentalist indie pop band Nóra had a blast with their debut album “Er einhver að hlusta?” (Is anyone listening?) in the summer of 2010. Although the band has been compared (too) much with Arcade Fire. Brother and Sister Egill & Auður, started to make music, together with Hrafn, in a garage. Het team was completed later on with Frank Arthur Blöndahl Cassata and drummer Bragi Páll Sigurðarson.
Their 2nd album “Himinbrim” (Great Northern Diver) opens with “Sporvagnar”, a track possibly maybe made for the next James Bond movie. In each song the band is showing how to bring a song to a climax. All songs opens with the end of the previous song, except the epilogue. Track 5 and 10 are 2 instrumental intermezzos, some sort of Twin Peaks moments. The most beautiful songs are “Sporvagnar”, “Kolbítur”, “Himinbrim”, “Það sem við munum”, “Vatnið yfir lækinn”, but the point omega is the apocalyptic track “Hreinsun”, probably the best Icelandic song of 2012.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Svavar Knútur "Ölduslóð"

Svavar Knútur began his musical career as singer-guitarist in the band Hraun (Lava). After two albums, the members went their own way. Troubadour Svavar, from the West Fjords, started out as a singer-songwriter in the fjord folk subgenre. His musical influences are both Nick Drake and Nick Cave, both Bonnie Prince Billy and Kris Kristofferson as Leonard Cohen and Cat Stevens. "Ölduslóð" (way of the waves) is the third solo album, the successor of Kvöldvaka (Campfire Songs, 2009) and Amma (songs for my grandmother, 2010). All these albums are intimate, acoustic records. All albums have a cover drawing made by Svavar’s daughter. For his third piece, he had both vocal and piano support from the Czech artist Markéta Irglová. Her input results in a good synergy with Knútur’s voice. In the second song there is a funny reference to the Bloodhound Gang: ‘The roof is on fire’. Svavar additionally holds a penchant for putting as many as possible la la la's into his songs, such as in the song "Komdu". It is a quiet album that ends with the religious "Prayer for the dead". Ölduslóð is by far the strongest piece of Svavar’s oeuvre.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tilbury "Exorcise"

Tilbury is a supergroup with members of the bands Skakkamanage, Jeff Who?, Moses Hightower, Valdimar, Amiina, Sin Fang and Hjaltalín. The band was soon enthusiastically received in their homeland: the Icelandic Belle and Sebastian has risen. It all started in the summer of 2010 as a solo project of Þormóður dagsson, the drummer/ex-drummer of Skakkamanage / Jeff Who? / Hudson Wayne. He is the brother of the renowned cartoonist Hugleikur dagsson.
Debut "Exorcise" was released on the Record Records label in May 2012.
This jumble of artists makes folky pop music with synthesizers, indeed, in the vein of Belle and Sebastian. Tilbury however develops its own sound, perhaps at times a little too smooth.
The album starts strongly with the single "Tenderloin". Furthermore, the songs get a bit sleepy, to awaken again with "Picture”. Towards the end, the long player is finally rougher and the devil exorcised. "Eclectic boogaloo" is my favorite track because of the witty guitar. "Filet Mignon", the valve and the ninth song, is the other pearl.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

HAM "Svik, harmur og Dauði"

If you think about ham, you don’t expect to get an Icelandic rock band on your plate. Yet HAM (Happy, Angry, Mad) is a well known phenomenon on the Icelandic music soil since 1988. Björk is a huge fan of this cult band with a solid fan base in their home country. Several times HAM was the supporting act for The Sugarcubes in the United States (1988). In 1989 the album "Buffalo Virgin" was released on One Little Indian, the successor of the controversial album "Hold". In 2011, then came a full-fledged sequel with the title "Svik, Harmur og Dauði" (Betrayal, Sorrow and Death). In the meantime there were several live albums released. HAM claims to play no metal and is most comparable with Rammstein. Only these Icelanders were a decade earlier than the Germans, with their bulldozer sound with gothic influences; Rammstein avant la lettre. This guitar workmen create a wall of sound, complemented by the shrill sound of singer Ottarr Proppé and the deep voice of singer-guitarist Sigurjon Kjartansson. Best tracks on the album are: "Dauð Hora" (dead prostitute), "Alcoholismus chronicus," "Gamlir Svikamenn Á Ferd" (old betrayers on the road) and "Ingimar".

Hellvar "Stop that noise"

Once upon a time there were 2 Icelandic philosophy students in Berlin: Heiða Eiríksdóttir (former singer of the band Unun) and Geir Elvar Sævarsson (member of the anarchistic group DYS). With the guitars around their neck Heiða & Elvar decided to start performing with their beloved laptop annex drumcomputer under the name Hellvar, Heiða + Elvar. Together with bassist Flosi Þorgeirsson, of the famous group HAM, they worked on their debut album back in Iceland. This album "Bat out of Hellvar" was the first release on the new label Kimi Records in 2007. In the following years the trio transformed into a quartet and a quintet eventually. On their second album "Stop that noise" (Kimi Records, 2011), the band found a solid sound, resulting in 9 poppy postpunk rock songs. The sound refers to Garbage and Republica, with a dash Sugarcubes, but with more balls on Björk's body. In other words estrogen singing with guitars & drums driven by testosterone firework. There's even a song in French on their repertoire: "Morceau the gai (e)té". Chanteuse Heiða has a tradition to uphold as Icelandic girl speaking & singing in French. My favorite song is the philosophical "Ding an sich." But the other 8 tracks will probably also appeal to you. The album was also released in an acoustic version, with the songs of the 2 releases in a summer jacket: "Noise that stopped".