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Country Sounds7 Icelandic Bands You Should Definitely Get To Know

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When you think about Iceland, you immediately think of desolate sceneries, waterfalls and volcanoes. The country counts only about 330.000 people but you probably know more Icelandic bands than let’s say French or German bands. You will recognize an Icelandic band right away, their distinctive style stands out. How is it possible that such a small population can produce so many world famous artists? What’s their secret ingredient? What’s in that Viking blood? Check out these essential country sounds you should definitely get to know.

1. Sykur

Sykur produces real Icelandic electropop as it should be. In their home country the band is well-known, but still Sykur doesn’t aim for foreign success. There aren’t many peculiarities to tell about the band, but just for their ode to Reykjavik they deserve a place in this list. If you ever find yourself driving through the most northern capital of Europe, make sure this song is blasting through the speakers. ‘Cause ‘Reykjavík, þú vekur mig’ just like the rest of Iceland.

2. Ásgeir

There’s a rumor that 1 out of 4 Icelanders has bought his debut album ‘Dýrð í dauðaþögn’. In any case, Ásgeir sold a huge amount of records in his home country, therefore the idea of an English version of his debut album was put forward. Most songs on the album are poems of Ásgeir’s father which he transformed into songs. This made the translation quite difficult. Luckily, he got help from John Grant, singer-songwriter and ex-member from The Czars. When performing live, Ásgeir sings in Icelandic as well as in English. You always have to listen carefully whether it’s Icelandic that you’re hearing... or English with Icelandic hair. All the same, the music stays as captivating as always.

3. Of Monsters And Men

This band cannot be forgotten when talking about the Icelandic music scene. Since ‘Little Talks’ everybody knows Of Monsters And Men. Only 1 year after the official formation of the band, they’ve made a name for themselves with their debut album ‘My Head Is An Animal’. Next to ‘Little Talks’, the band also won many prizes for singles ‘Dirty Paws’ and ‘Mountain Sound’. A few weeks ago Of Monsters And Men announced they’ve almost finished the new record. Of Monsters And Men also contributed to television history. Last year, the band appeared twice on ‘Game Of Thrones’, something Jónsi from Sigur Rós had done before.

4. Kaleo

The most recent breakthrough from Iceland is called Kaleo. The band started only 5 years ago but will be on every big festival this summer. The big audience got to know Kaleo through television. Some of their songs were used in popular series like ‘Orange is the New Black’, ‘Suits’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’. Although the band has written some songs in Icelandic, the vast majority of their repertoire is in English. 

Their debut album ‘A/B’ became such a big hit in Iceland that soon a worldwide release was on the table. This turned out to be a success as well: ‘A/B’ sold over 175.000 copies. Through Kaleo, Icelandic music takes a different turn. This band is the first to aim for a more bluesy and folksy sound. In little time they not only conquered Europe, even the US is (almost) theirs.

5. Björk

If there is one Icelander everyone knows, it’s Björk. The eccentric singer doesn’t fear a single music genre. With her eclectic mix of everything that crosses her path, she has been fascinating the world for over 25 years now. Although she’s best known as a musician, Björk has done quite a bit of acting as well. In 2000 she even received a Golden Palm for Best Actress at the film festival in Cannes. Allegedly, Björk was asked to sing the title song of ‘The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers’ about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, she had to refuse because she was pregnant of her first child at the time. Who did sing this title song? You’ll know soon enough...

6. Emilíana Torrini

In the end, it was the half Italian half Icelandic Emilíana Torrini who sang the title song of  ‘Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers’. The Icelandic influence is less prominent in Torrini’s music. Contrasting to Björk’s electro, Torrini chooses for an acoustic and by times folksy sound. Her music is more accessible and is often compared with Norah Jones or Tori Amos. Although fans from Lord Of The Rings might’ve discovered her a bit earlier, Europe met Torrini in 2009 with ‘Jungle Drum’. This cheerful song became a hit in most of the European countries that summer. Chances are it will ring a bell.

7. Sigur Rós

Jónsi Birgisson, Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason went to school together in Reykjavik. Soon they started a band called ‘Victory Rose’. This name was derived from singer Jónsi’s little sister who was born around the same time. His sister’s name was ‘Sigurros’ which means ‘victory rose’ in English. The band wrote as well in English as well as in Icelandic and soon changed its name to ‘Sigur Rós’. You’re forgiven if you can’t name a single song from Sigur Rós. With hit songs like ‘Við spilum endalaust’ we totally understand. 
The band will travel to New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and Japan this summer. Just to point out that they’ve outgrown their island in the north a while ago. Sigur Rós has a well-known live reputation. Soon you’ll find yourself in a kind of fairytale, this might have something to do with singer Jónsi’s elfin appearance.

Country Sounds

Music is an international language that everyone can speak and understand. Yet somehow, foreign songs seldom make it to the charts. That's too bad, because every country has some great local music everybody should discover. Let's narrow the boundaries and get to know some new 'Country Sounds'.

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