Over the last two decades, Iceland Airwaves has firmly established itself as one of the elite festivals for new music discovery. Though in recent years they’ve expanded to incorporate international names, there’s thrill to be had in the hunt for a new favourite obsession.
It’s also lauded for being the country’s most beloved celebrations of its diverse music scene. Big names sit nicely against cult heroes and Icelandic breakout star Daði Freyr said that his first appearance at the festival was confirmation of his craft: “It was the first time I felt like we were a part of the community and in the scene, and not just on the outside looking in.”
While that celebration will be sorely missed this winter – the festival was moved to 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – there is an opportunity to celebrate Icelandic talent in this weekend’s live streamed festival, Live From Reykjavik. Get full details on how you can watch the stream here, and let us fill you in on the key names you should look out for this weekend.
Who: Slinky R&B with pop-ready choruses
What to expect: 2017’s ‘ALONE’ showcased the singer’s deft range and ability to pair the light with the dark, but ‘ljós’ – released halfway through the pandemic – is a short-but-sweet showcase of both his vocal range and diverse production.
Key track: ‘Enginn eins og þú
Who: Critically-acclaimed and chart topping folktronica hero
What to expect: If you think Fleet Foxes released one of the most soothing albums of the year, Ásgeir is probably giving them a run for their money. ‘Bury The Moon’ – released both in English and Icelandic earlier this year – is folk-rock with bite, like on trap-influenced ‘Turn Gold To Sand’ and baroque indie-pop of ‘Lazy Giants’.
Key track: ‘Youth’
Who: Viral sensation sending electro-pop into wonky new dimensions
What to expect: You’ll have heard ‘Think About Things’ – the beloved hit poised to be Iceland’s Eurovision entry this year – but there’s more to the Berlin-based artist than a one-hit wonder, as seen in 2019’s collection ‘& Co.’ There’s even a Christmas song, too, the achingly beautiful ‘Every Moment Is Christmas With You’.
Key track: ‘Think About Things’
Emiliana Torrini & Friends
Who: Ensemble of Iceland’s foremost singer/songwriters
What to expect: An intimate performance between Torrini, Oscar-winning Marketa Irglova, Pétur Ben, Helgi Jónsson and Tina Dickow all sat in a circle, chipping into each other’s songs in a beautiful Reykjavik recording studio. Lovely stuff.
Key track: ‘Birds’
Who: Anti-capitalist techno-dystopian collective. Gnarly.
What to expect: When they competed at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019, the trio showed support for Palestine in a rare political moment at the competition. It’s just one instance of the group’s no-fucks-given attitude – and certainly won’t be the last.
Key track: ‘Spillingardans’
Who: Reykjavik’s synth-punk Airwaves veterans
What to expect: The Cure’s Robert Smith hand-picked the group to feature at an array of summer festivals in recent years, and if The Gothfather thinks they’re doing something right, then that’s a good reason for you to tune in.
Key track: ‘Kalt’
Who: Diverse and immensely talented folk-rock troubadour
What to expect: Over his near two-decade career, Mugison has dabbled with folk-rock, rock’n’roll, sparse-pop and indie – basically, the guys been there, done it all and mastered his craft at every turn.
Key track: ‘Stingum Af’
Of Monsters and Men
Who: One of the nation’s biggest ever musical exports
What to expect: Their world-beating debut ‘My Head Is An Animal’ and massive lead single ‘Little Talks’ set them on their path, but there is serious fun to be had in the groovy, Arcade Fire-inspired 2019 album ‘Fever Dream’.
Key track: ‘Visitor’
Live From Reykjavik by Iceland Airwaves will take place this weekend (Nov 13/14, Nov 14/15 Australasia)