FOREIGN FEATURE – iceland

Where is it possible to find truly… original music? Folk music used to be the signature of nations – each style, story and allegory meaningful to a homeland. Today, it’s hard to find an equivalent in a world of recycled beats and processed lyricism. Iceland – with its underwhelming population of nearly half of London – seems to have an answer.  Scandinavian music has always been an epicentre of the abstract and the stylized, and the mysticism of its lonely landscapes has been reflected in folk music and culture spanning all generations. Artists like Bjork have found success in the mainstream music industry, proving that the international taste for European tunes hasn’t died down. In modern times, however, foreign musicians struggle to break out of the strange hold that the need for English music and English words has forced upon them. Iceland is a perfect Babylon for the untouched – musicians have a beautiful language native language to work with, and it’s sad to see the need for foreign music decrease. Arguably, Sigur Ros has provided the most publicity for Iceland, remaining staunch in its style and refusing to sweep its cultural learning’s under the carpet.

Sigur Ros – The obvious one – where would emotional advertisements be without Hoppipolla? Sigur Ros paints a portrait of Icelandic life with grace and class, from the frantic Gobbledigook to the inward looking Saeglopur.  Jonsi provides the angelic, higher pitched vocals (Jonsi proves his range with his solo project) which gives Sigur ros their memorable signature. The Icelandic language is easily explorable with this band – it’s refreshing to hear something that sounds entirely different to western basic languages like English. Sigur Ros even created their own language – “Hopelandic” – in an effort to create more mystery surrounding the ultimate meaning of the tracks.  Always fascinating, always daydream worthy.

Jonsi – Those looking for something with a little more substance or want to explore the Icelandic language in music further will find Jonsi’s solo project more engaging. He moves far away from the post-rock, airy style of Sigur Ros and finds originality in his frantic tempo, tinkering noises and fairy-folk that reflects the positive nature of his work.  It’s incredibly difficult to not smile at his songs – like Sigur Ros, they paint the landscape of Iceland… built like a fairytale under cold but homely skies. Also his piano-centric tracks are beautiful pieces of work, not to be ignored in the lieu of his more vibrant singles.

Múm – Experimental, post-rock influences and floating vocals influence this band – the combination of glitching and folksy instruments provides a bittersweet (but always delightful to the ears), mellow sound.  Mum is truly only venturable for those who have a taste for the bizarre, adventurous and escapist side of music. Post-rock is a difficult genre to find a taste for, but Mums song Sing-Along provides a nice change from the avant garde they have produced before.

Seabear – If you want to just dip your toes into Icelandic styles, Seabear provides a quiet respite from the cultural nature of Sigur Ros. Seabear still retains the key styles that makes Icelandic music so endearing to the soul. They never overstates themselves – they simply let the music do the talking… Occasionally reminiscent of early Elliot Smith work, Seabear is for the quintessential folk lover and easy to enjoy.

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Filed under Foreign Feature, Opinionated Music Posts

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