Tag: Reykjavik Iceland

New Audio: Rising Icelandic Artist Laufey Teams Up with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra on a Gorgeous Single

Laufey Lin, best known as the mononym Laufey, is a rising, 21 year-old Chinese-Icelandic singer/songwriter, cellist and pianist. Spending much of her childhood in Reykjavik, Lin grew up influenced by classical music and jazz, and by the time she was 15, she performed with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Interestingly, despite her love of the music that served as her musical foundation, she yearned to express herself by creating music that blended her classical background with her more modern/contemporary influences.

While attending Berklee College of Music, she began to collaborate with some of her peers. Lin recorded her debut single “Street By Street,” which revealed a unique blend of jazz melodies paired with slow-burning R&B grooves, the day before campus was shut down as a result of the pandemic. Making the most out of the unexpected times during pandemic-related lockdowns, Lin decided to self-release her debut single through her social media. The song, along with performance videos she posted of covers and originals quickly went viral. Eventually, “Street By Street” hit #1 on the Icelandic charts — and she began to amass a massive following that includes Billie Eilish, Willow Smith, dodie, and others.

Adding to a breakthrough year, the Chinese-Icelandic artist landed her own music series on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds. Lin also Best New Artist at the Iceland Music Awards. And all of these accomplishments took place before the release of her debut EP Typical of Me, which has amassed over 10 million streams across all digital streaming platforms.

Building upon her breakthrough year, Laufey’s latest single, “Let You Break My Heart Again” sees the rising young artist collaborating with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. Featuring acoustic guitar, Laufey’s lovely vocal and breathtakingly gorgeous orchestral arrangement, “Let You Break My Heart Again” is an old Hollywood-inspired ballad centered around modern yet familiar sentiment: The song’s narrator has a youthful love affair that’s hopelessly unrequited and disappointing; But all is not lost. The song ends with its narrator — with subtle pride — saying that someday she’ll get over this lover and find a love that’s requited and worth her time.

“The Philharmonia – one of the world’s great orchestras – prides itself on supporting the next generation of incredible artists, and we are hugely proud to work alongside Laufey on this track,” Alexander Van Ingen, Chief Executives of the Philharmonia Orchestra says in press notes. “Laufey has an exceptional vocal and songwriting talent, and we are so pleased to have made this work across the Atlantic during the pandemic; we look forward to welcoming Laufey to London in the autumn for her performance in the EFG London Jazz Festival at our London residence, the Southbank Centre.”

“I wrote this song about a guy that I was hopelessly in love with,” Laufey adds. “I let him disappoint me again and again simply because I liked him so much. It’s the kind of blind love you experience in your youth, inspired by the sounds of old Hollywood films. I’m so honored to collaborate with the London Philharmonia Orchestra on this song. Growing up a classical musician, I’ve been a fan of them for years. The orchestral arrangement lifts the song to new heights with luscious strings, winds and graceful harmonies. I was also so happy to play cello on the track!”

Reykjavik-based post-punk/industrial act and JOVM mainstays Kælan Mikla— Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir (synths, vocals),  Margrét Rósa Dóru-Harrysdóttir (bass), and Laufey Soffía Þórsdóttir (vocals) — had a breakthrough year back in 2018: The Cure’s Robert Smith championed the Icelandic trio, and handpicked them to open for the legendary British act’s festival stops through the UK and US. Adding to a big year, Kælan Mikla played at that year’s Roadburn Festival. And they toured with King Dude. Interestingly enough, all of that happened before the release of their critically applauded third album Nótt eftir nott. 

Undir Köldum Norðumljósum, the Reykjavik-based trio’s upcoming, Barði Jóhannsson-produced fourth album is slated for an October 15, 2021 release through their longtime label home Artoffact RecordsUndir Köldum Norðumljósum reportedly sees the trio crafting lush and cinematic material centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, ethereal vocals sung in their native Icelandic, spine-chilling background screams, relentless motorik grooves and programmed drums while pulling the listener into their unique world full of folklore, fairytales, magic, spells and mysticism. The album will also feature a guest spot from Alcest, who toured with the trio across the European Union before the pandemic. 

In the lead-up to the album’s release I’ve managed to write about two of the album’s released singles:

  • Sólstöður,” a brooding and cinematic track centered around droning and shimmering synths, nightmarish screams and an ethereal and gorgeous vocal melody. Sonically, “Sólstöður,” evokes horror soundtracks — especially those featuring witches and demons slinking out into the night to perform ancient rituals involving human or animal sacrifices. “’Sólstöður’ is an ode to the darkest night of the year, when witches summon winter spirits in the frozen vastness of Icelandic landscapes,” the members of the Icelandic trio explain in press notes. “The song represents the strength of unity, Kælan Mikla in its truest form, fueled by the power of harsh and raw nature.”
  • Ósýnileg,” a dance floor friendly track centered around shimmering and atmospheric synth arpeggios, relentless motorik grooves, rapid fire, four-on-the-floor beats and blood curdling screams in the background. Interestingly, the track manages to evoke strobe lit discos and howling wintry winds and unexplained phenomena simultaneously.

Undir Köldum Norðumljósum‘s third and latest single “Stormurinn” finds the trio crafting a decidedly cinematic take on their goth-inspired sound. While you’ll still hear the shimmering synth arpeggios, rapid fire four-on-the-floor, propulsive bass lines, motorik grooves and razor sharp hooks of its predecessors paired with the trio’s ethereal vocals. But unlike its predecessors, you’ll hear some gorgeous and fluttering flute floating over the brooding arrangement and howling winds — to help emphasize the song’s brooding atmospherics.

“Stormurinn’ means ‘The Storm’ in Icelandic. This song is about dancing around a bonfire on the beach on a stormy weather night charged with the power of wind and thunder,” the members of Kælan Mikla explain in press notes.

Album pre-order is available here: https://kaelanmikla.bandcamp.com

Reykjavik-based post-punk/industrial act and JOVM mainstays Kælan Mikla — Sólveig Matthildur,  Margrét Rósa, and Laufey Soffía — had a breakthrough year back in 2018: The Cure’s Robert Smith championed the Icelandic trio, and handpicked them to open for the legendary British act’s festival stops through the UK and US. Adding to a big year, Kælan Mikla played at that year’s Roadburn Festival. And they toured with King Dude. Interestingly enough, all of that happened before the release of their critically applauded  third album Nótt eftir nott. 

Undir Köldum Norðumljósum, the Reykjavik-based trio’s upcoming, Barði Jóhannsson-produced fourth album is slated for an October 15, 2021 release through their longtime label home Artoffact Records. Undir Köldum Norðumljósum reportedly sees the trio crafting lush and cinematic material centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, ethereal vocals sung in their native Icelandic, spine-chilling background screams, relentless motorik grooves and programmed drums while pulling the listener into their unique world full of folklore, fairytales, magic, spells and mysticism. The album will also feature a guest spot from Alcest, who toured with the trio across the European Union before the pandemic.

So far I’ve written about “Sólstöður,” a brooding and cinematic track centered around droning and shimmering synths, nightmarish screams and an ethereal and gorgeous vocal melody. Sonically, “Sólstöður,” evokes horror soundtracks — especially those featuring witches and demons slinking out into the night to perform ancient rituals involving human or animal sacrifices. “’Sólstöður’ is an ode to the darkest night of the year, when witches summon winter spirits in the frozen vastness of Icelandic landscapes,” the members of the Icelandic trio explain in press notes. “The song represents the strength of unity, Kælan Mikla in its truest form, fueled by the power of harsh and raw nature.”

Undir Köldum Norðumljósum‘s second and latest single “Ósýnileg” originally premiered as part of Adult Swim’s Singles series. Continuing a run of remarkably cinematic singles, Ósýnileg” centered around shimmering and atmospheric synth arpeggios, relentless motorik grooves and rapid-fire four-on-the-floor beats, blood-curdling screams and the trio’s equally ethereal vocals Undir Köldum Norðumljósum‘s latest single may be the most dance floor friendly of the singles released off the album so far — while evoking howling wintry winds and unexplained phenomena.

Live Footage: VAR at Orgelsmidjan

Acclaimed Reykjavik-based post-rock collective VAR was founded in 2013 as a solo recording project of its founding member and creative mastermind Júliús Óttar Björgvinsson (vocals, guitar and piano). But shortly after he started the project, Björgvinsson began to feel as though his vision couldn’t be fully realized without assistance. So, he recruited those who were the closest to him — his wife Myrra Rós (synths, vocals), his brother Egil Björgvinsson (bass) and his friends Arnór Jónasson (guitar) and Adrni Freyr Þorgeirsson (drums). That lineup wrote and recorded the Vetur EP — and in the subsequent years after its release, the band managed to built up a fiercely loyal fanbase through relentless touring. 

After the release of the Vetur EP, the band went through a series of lineup changes: Ròs left the band as a result of competing professional and personal responsibilities and Sigurður Ingi Einarsson (drums) replaced Freyr Þorgeirsson. A smaller lineup forced a thorough reimagining and reworking of their sound — and the result was last year’s The Never Ending Year, which may arguably be the most ambitious album of their growing catalog.

Much like countless acts across the globe, the pandemic put the Icelandic act’s plans to support their new album with a tour on an indefinite hold. “After releasing an album and having no chance to play it live, we felt like we had to do something to give people at least a little taste of us playing these songs live,” VAR’s Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson (vocals/guitar/keys) says in press notes. “VAR has always been about playing live and we always give everything we have to make the tension between us and the audience both peaceful and powerful. But since we could not play it live for people, we decided to make these live videos of us playing the songs at the organ workshop where we practice. We got our producer Eiður to do the sound for the videos and when he sent us the audio files Arnór brought that idea of releasing a live EP, because people had been asking us to do so. We were happy with the sound Eiður got from the session and how far it is from how the album sounds. It’s powerful, it’s raw and it’s honest. And that is VAR.”

The acclaimed Icelandic act recently released the four-song  Live at Orgelsmidjan EP, which was recorded at the band’s practice space, which also manages to be the country’s only pipe organ workshop. To celebrate the release of the EP, the band released live footage of the session, which manages to accurately capture the band’s intimate yet enormous sound paired with heart on sleeve lyricism. Starting off with the gorgeous, organ and guitar-led meditation “By The Ocean,” the EP quickly picks up the pace with the enormous and rousingly anthemic “Where to Find You,” which finds the band meshing elements of shoegaze, alt rock, arena rock and post rock. “Moments” is a slow-burning and delicate track centered around shimmering guitars with dramatic drumming and Júliús Óttar Björgvinsson’s achingly plaintive vocals that gradually becomes an enormous, arena rock friendly, towering ripper. The EP’s last single “Highlands” is centered around a classic alt rock sound structure — quiet verses with atmospheric guitars and synths and loud choruses with towering power chords.

The accompanying live footage manages to be split into intimately shot footage of the band performing the material or heading to their rehearsal space to play and some incredibly cinematic and awe-inspiring footage of their beautiful homeland. The footage seems to suggest that their surroundings have a direct impact on their sound.

Live Footage: Var Performs “Where To Find You” at Orgelsmidjan

VAR is an acclaimed Reykjavik-based post-rock collective that was founded in 2013 as the solo recording project of its founding member and creative mastermind Júliús Óttar Björgvinsson(vocals, guitar and piano). But shortly after the project’s founding, Björgvinsson felt as though his vision couldn’t be fully realized without additional help. So, he recruited those, who were the closest to him — his wife Myrra Rós (synths, vocals), his brother Egil Björgvinsson (bass) and his friends Arnór Jónasson (guitar) and Adrni Freyr Þorgeirsson (drums). That lineup wrote and recorded the Vetur EP — and in the subsequent years after its release, the band managed to built up a fiercely loyal fanbase through relentless touring.

The band went through a series of lineup changes after the release of Vetur EP: Ròs left the band as a result of competing professional and personal responsibilities and Sigurður Ingi Einarsson (drums) replaced Freyr. A smaller lineup necessitated a reimagining and reworking of the sound, which resulted in last year’s The Never Ending Year, arguably the most ambitious album of their growing catalog.

Much like countless acts across the world, the pandemic put the acclaimed Icelandic act’s tour plans on hold indefinitely. “After releasing an album and having no chance to play it live, we felt like we had to do something to give people at least a little taste of us playing these songs live,” VAR’s Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson (vocals/guitar/keys) says in press notes. “VAR has always been about playing live and we always give everything we have to make the tension between us and the audience both peaceful and powerful. But since we could not play it live for people, we decided to make these live videos of us playing the songs at the organ workshop where we practice. We got our producer Eiður to do the sound for the videos and when he sent us the audio files Arnór brought that idea of releasing a live EP, because people had been asking us to do so. We were happy with the sound Eiður got from the session and how far it is from how the album sounds. It’s powerful, it’s raw and it’s honest. And that is VAR.”

The Icelandic band’s latest effort, the soon-to-be released four song Live at Orgelsmidjan EP, was recorded at the their practice space, which also serves was their homeland’s only pipe organ workshop. The EP’s latest single “Where To Find You” further establishes their sound, which — to my ears, at least — is a seamless synthesis of atmospheric shoegaze, classic alt rock and arena rock paired with heart-on-sleeve lyricism. But interestingly, because of its unfussy, you-are-there production, the song is imbued with the raw and urgent power of a live performance. And as a result, it gives the material an added emotional punch.

Live Footage: Reykjavik’s Óregla Releases an Expansive and Mischievous Single

Óregla is a rising, Reykjavik, Iceland-based jazz/progressive funk octet led by composer and trumpeter Daníel Sigurðsson that derives its name from the Icelandic word for chaos or irregularity. Featuring some of the country’s rising jazz musicians, the act is inspired by a diverse and eclectic array of influences including Igor Stravinsky, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa.

While Sigurðsson crafts compositions featuring arrangements centered around a brass section consisting of two tenor saxophones and a trumpet, guitar, bass, keys, drums and some bursts of orchestral percussion, the members of the act aim to push the boundaries of their music and sound with a funky and lively atmospheric and a sense of humor.

The act released their latest album Þröskuldur Góðra Vona (The Threshold of Good Hopes) earlier this year, and the album’s latest single “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” is a expansive track, centered around rapidly changing and very odd time signature changes as the song progresses — and some deft playing, that alternates between mischievous playfulness, contemplation and a breakneck swing.

The live footage features the band performing “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” at Tónkvísl for Reykjavik Sessions back in 2014.

New Video: Reykjavik’s VAR Releases an Earnest and Anthemic New Single Paired with an Intimate Visual

VAR is a Reykjavik-based post-rock collective that began in 2013 as the solo project of its founding member Júliús Óttar (vocals, guitar and piano) but shortly after its creation, Óttar realized that his vision couldn’t be fully realized without additional help. So he recruited those who were the closest to him — his wife Myrra Rós (synths, vocals), his brother Egil Björgvinsson (bass) and his friends Arnór Jónasson (guitar) and Adrni Freyr Þorgeirsson (drums). With that lineup, the act wrote and recored the Vetur EP — and over the course of the subsequent years, the band built up a fiercely loyal fanbase through relentless touring and live shows.

After the release of Vetur EP, the band went through a major lineup change. Ròs left the band as a result of competing professional and personal responsibilities and Sigurður Ingi Einarsson (drums) replaced Freyr — and as a result of a smaller lineup, a reimagining of the project’s sound was necessary. The Icelandic act’s latest album The Never Ending Year was released earlier this year through Spartan Records, and the album’s material may be the most ambitious and awe-inspiring of the act’s growing catalog. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Moments.” a song featuring alternating arena rock friendly choruses centered around enormous power chords and intimate, shoegazer-lke verses with shimmering guitars and ethereal vocals that sonically brought the wide-screen, cinematic quality of Sigur Ros with the intensity and the arena rock friendly sound of Foo Fighters to mind. The Never Ending Year’s latest single “Run” continues a run of infectious and swooning anthems centered around enormous power chord-driven riffs, ethereal vocals, thunderous drumming and some swooningly earnest songwriting. But interestingly, I think “Run” may be the most straightforward shoegazer-like track of the entire album. 

The recently released video for “Run” manages to adhere to our current COVID-19 pandemic related social distancing guidelines as we see each of the band’s members performing the song in a enormous and very sunny house, which reveals some of their homeland’s stunning terrain and a gorgeous sunset. 

New Video: Reykjavik’s VAR Releases and Intimately Shot Visual for Awe-Inspiring New Single

VAR is a Reykjavik-based post-rock collective that initially began in 2013 as the solo project of Júliús Óttar (vocals, guitar and piano) but shortly after its creation, Óttar realized that his vision couldn’t be fully realized without additional help, so he recruited those who were the closest to him — his wife Myrra Rós (synths, vocals), his brother Egil Björgvinsson (bass) and his friends Arnór Jónasson (guitar) and Adrni Freyr Þorgeirsson (drums). With that lineup, the act wrote and recored the Vetur EP — and over the course of the subsequent years, the band builds up a fiercely loyal fanbase through relentless touring and live shows. 

Because of competing responsibilities, Ròs was pulled in a different direction and Sigurður Ingi Einarsson (drums) replaced Freyr in a major lineup change that created a smaller lineup — and as a result, necessitated a reimagining of the project’s sound. Released earlier this year through Spartan Records, the Icelandic act’s latest album The Never Ending Year sees the band crating one of the label’s most awe-inspiring releases to date. “Moments,” the latest single off the album is a perfect example of that: centered around alternating arena rock friendly choruses with enormous power chords and intimate, shoegazer-like verses featuring shimmering guitars and ethereally sung vocals, the song manages to evoke the wide-screen cinematic air of acclaimed countrymen Sigur Ros with the intensity and anthemic hooks of Foo Fighters and others. 

The recently released video for “Moments” was shot in the town Stokkseyri, on Iceland’s southern coast, about an hour outside of Reykjavik: Stokkseryri is the home of the country’s only existing organ workshop — and coincidentally is owned by Óttar and Björgvinsson’s father. Featuring live footage of the band performing at the organ workshop, the video also offers an intimate look within the band’s world — and that of the small community of Stokkseryi. 

New Audio: Reykjavik’s Kælan Mikla Releases Live Concert-based Visual for Industrial Synth Wave-Inspired Single

Over the past handful of months this year, I’ve written a bit about the up-and-coming Reykjavik, Iceland-based synth-based post-punk trio Kælan Mikla. Last year was a breakthrough year for the Icelandic act: they played a set at The Netherlands’ Roadburn Festival, were championed by The Cure’s Robert Smith and toured with King Dude, and as you may recall, all of that happened before the release of Nótt eftir nott. 

The members of Kælan Mikla are currently in the middle of a lengthy Stateside tour that included a New York area stop last night. (You can check out the remaining tour dates below) Sadly, I had to miss that one — but in the meantime, the trio’s latest single off Nótt eftir nott is the brooding  “Hvernig kemst ég upp.” Centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, a motorik-like groove, tweeter and woofer rocking low end, thumping beats, the industrial-leaning, synth-driven track finds the Icelandic act employing a sound that will likely bring early Depeche Mode and New Order immediately to mind. 

Live Footage: Up-and-Coming Icelandic Post-Punk Act Kælan Mikla Perform Shimmering and Euphoric “Næturblóm”

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Reykjavik, Iceland-based synth-based post-punk act Kælan Mikla, and as you may recall, this year has proven to be a breakthrough year for them so far: they played a critically applauded set at this year’s Roadburn Festival, were championed by The Cure’s Robert Smith and toured with King Dude — and all of this before the release of their forthcoming album Nótt eftir nott, which is slated for a November 9, 2018 release through Artoffact Records. 
“Nornalagið,” Nótt eftir nott’s first single was a chilly yet dance floor friendly track, centered around a motorik groove, shimmering and arpeggiated synths. Punctuated by piercing waiting throughout, the track managed to be both eerily atmospheric and cinematic, evoking a storm slowly rolling across enormous skies. The album’s latest single “Næturblóm,” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor — centered around an arrangement of shimmering synths, angular bass lines, four-on-the-floor drumming, industrial clang and clatter and Laufey Soffía’s ethereal vocals, the track manages to be atmospheric and cinematic; however, the song may arguably be one of the most euphoric songs they’ve written to date as it manages to recall Siouxsie and the Banshees and the classic 4AD Records sound simultaneously. 

Interestingly, as the band explains in press notes, the song’s title “Næturblóm” translates into the English as “Nightflowers,” and its lyrics were initially a poem that the band’s Laufey Soffía wrote and then gave to Sólveig Matthildur as a birthday present. ” It’s about how Laufey sees Sólveig as a beautiful flower that blooms in the winter darkness. An everlasting reminder of their friendship.” 

The members of the Icelandic post-punk trio will be playing an album release show on November 8, 2018 at this year’s Iceland Airwaves and to build up buzz for the momentous occasion and for a handful of live dates across Scandinavia, they’ve released a live video performing “Næturblóm” in an abandoned factory space.