There are several excellent record shops in Reykjavik. 12 Tonar, Lucky Records which has new and used records, the tiny Reykjavik Record Shop and Smekkleysa [which has now moved to a new location] are my favourites. 12 Tonar offer you a free coffee which is very nice of them. I like to visit them all whenever I am in town.
There is more to Icelandic music than just Sigur Ros and Björk , who are both Icelandic institutions now and deservedly so. If you think you do not know Sigur Ros it is likely that you will have heard their music on soundtracks to films and documentaries.
I have created a Spotify Iceland Inspired Playlist here. [Updated Oct 2020]
Just when it gets all cold, dark and wintery, Iceland Airwaves comes to the rescue with a few days of eclectic music from Iceland and beyond. The festival this year was cancelled for obvious reasons but is scheduled to return Nov 3rd-6th 2021 – YAY! https://icelandairwaves.is/
Some of my favourite artists from Iceland :
[Updated Oct 2020]
I have probably seen Amiina about eight times now as they used to play with, and also open for, Sigur Ros. I saw them play Hurra in Reykjavik in 2017 performing Fantomas, a live soundtrack to a surreal silent movie. I saw them perform this again in Brighton in 2018.
Named after the bus terminal in Reykjavik. I checked them out after seeing that were listed to play Iceland Airwaves 2020. There is a 7″ available from German based Tomatenplatten records which I now own.
A former member of Seabear. I saw Sóley live at Bush Hall in 2018 – her music is absolutely wonderful and she has released three solo albums so far. Here is a clip of her playing live at Kex Hostel a few years ago.
Sóley, Sin Fang and Örvar Smárason.
An Icelandic supergroup collaboration! [Örvar is a member of Múm, while Sóley and Sin Fang are solo artists]. I love this video to Random Haiku Generator.
Gyða Valtýsdóttir was a founding member of Múm and has worked with a range of musicians as well as releasing a couple of solo albums under her own name. Heavy classical influences are evident on her solo work. Her album Evolution which was released in 2018 is a good place to start.
The winning Icelandic entry for the cancelled 2020 Eurovision Song Contest !
The video is wonderful too!
Jofridur Akadottir has performed with Samaris and Pascal Pinon. Her White Sun Live Part 1 : Strings is beautiful. Her gig at St Pancras Old Church in London in January 2020 was intimate and wonderful.
I don’t know too much about MSEA apart from the fact the main protagonist is Maria- Carmela and that she is based in Reykjavik. Her music is experimental and captivating. She has nothing released on vinyl yet unfortunately.
I have seen Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir live a couple of times now in the UK. My favourite album by her, Brostinn Strengur, has just been released on red vinyl – yum! This video is a great advert for the wonders of Iceland.
Skuli has arranged music for Laurie Anderson and has played with Blonde Redhead. He is an amazing bass player! I heard Skuli’s album Seria when I visited 12 Tonar for the first time in 2009 which has contributions from Olof Arnalds and Laurie Anderson, but it’s a shame it’s not on vinyl yet [although he told me it was!].
Of Monsters and Men.
Their music has been used on several movies including The Hunger Games and can be heard on episodes of The 100 and The Walking Dead. Their new album is called Fever Dream.
Olafur has released several albums and written the soundtrack to Broadchurch [which I have never seen]. This collaboration with Nanna from Of Monsters and Men from the Island Songs album is beautiful.
Ólöf was a member of Múm for several years and has collaborated with Skulli Sverrisson and Bjork, you can clearly hear Bjork’s distinctive voice on the track Surrendur. Check out the song and great video below.
Vök have been around since 2013 and have recently supported Of Monsters and Men on their European tour. Tuneful electronica is how I would describe them.
Rökkurró have released three albums [2 on vinyl]. Their last LP Innra was released in 2014 but sadly they have been quiet since.
The track Tomoko grabbed my attention back in 2006 and I managed to catch Hafdis live several times in the UK. She has just released an album of covers but Tomoko is still my favourite. The video is ace too.
Pascal Pinon sounds like a French solo artist but isn’t! It’s the name of a band consisting of twin sisters that have delivered three albums of rather lovely [mostly] acoustic songs.
Ásgeir Trausti released three soulful albums and has a new album Bury the Moon out soon. I have seen him perform a few times where his music really comes alive.
Gusgus released their first album in 1995 and released their last album in 2018. Their name has nothing to do with the character from Disney’s Cinderella, sadly.
Hildur Guðnadóttir is a cellist, composer and arranger. Her film scores to Sicario, Joker and the Sky series Chernobyl are wonderfully atmospheric and powerful. There are a few more Hildur’s out there so don’t get confused.
Mr Silla is not a bloke but is in fact Sigurlaug Gísladóttir, a solo artist who has released two solo albums so far. A shame her wonderful debut is not on vinyl.
It’s hard to believe that the band released their first record over 20 years ago! But Múm are still going strong. I caught them live just the once in Brighton and they were superb.
Moody electronica with haunting vocals and a clarinet. I saw them live in Brighton a few years ago when their performance clashed with the Icelandic football team playing at the same time and the audience were shouting out the score to the band onstage. [Iceland won!]
I first of heard Seabear when I found out that Sóley was a member of the band. I thought that they had broken up as they have not released anything since 2010 but they played again at Iceland Airwaves in 2019, yay!
I first heard the music of Jón Leifs on an Icelandic Air flight from Reykjavik to Gatwick. I really liked it and bought some CD’s when I got home. His music is inspired by Iceland, it’s culture and geography. He died in 1968.
Jóhann Jóhannsson released solo albums and is well known for his soundtracks to films such as The Theory of Everything, Arrival and [the absolutely bonkers] Mother! He sadly died in 2018, a great loss.