The 5 Bands to Check Out if You're a Fan of Bjork & Sigur Ros
Iceland as a musical nation is essentially a victim of its own success. In Bjork and Sigur Ros, they have two incredibly popular acts that appeal to a worldwide audience without ever losing that experimental, boundary pushing aspect which keeps them both steadfastly in the ‘still cool even though they’re famous’ bracket, which is a wildly difficult bracket to remain in with today’s transient minded music fan, so eager to label anyone with over a handful of fans as a sellout.
They are two tough acts to follow and the comparisons to the two heavyweights will always be brought up, however similar or dissimilar their musical output may be. However that certainly has not deterred many from the Scandinavian nation from following in the footsteps of its greatest musical imports, and as a country it has one of the most varied and intriguing collection of artists out of anywhere in Europe at the moment.
Although a list of all the best current Icelandic acts would scroll on endlessly, we’ve picked five of the best for you here, in the hope that it will lead you on to discover and explore more of what the small but endlessly creative country has to offer.
Múm, (pronounced ‘moom’, just FYI), very much carry on in the guise of Bjork in terms of sonic experimentation, typified by ambient electronica, harmonious vocals and a penchant for trying out new instruments, and in general just being insanely unpredictable from song to song.
In a similar vein, the band has swollen and shrunk in just as eccentric a fashion since its inception in 1997, with only the two founding members of Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason having remained constant throughout the years, but with as many as 15-20 other musicians having taken up the reins at some point.
The band have released four further studio albums since their critically acclaimed debut ‘Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is OK’, but not just content with that, they have dabbled in a characteristically eclectic side projects, including composing for film, theatre, working with classical composers and playing legendary DJ sets that include toy microphones and cassette players.
Of Monsters And Men
Definitely the most successful band on this list, Of Monsters And Men have found international success across the world since the release of their debut album ‘My Head Is An Animal’ in 2011, reaching number one in Australia, Iceland, Ireland and the US Alternative Rock charts, as well as number three in the UK.
With a electronica infused folk sound, similar to The XX, The Lumineers or Mumford And Sons, they produce tightly composed, inch perfect pop tunes that stick in the mind for long after you’ve heard them, which is why you probably recognize their most famous single ‘Little Talks’, as it went number one all across Europe and was also used a jingle in an Apple ad back in 2015, which is pretty much the litmus test for catchy songs if ever there was one.
Following tours all around the world and at festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella, they are now working on their as yet untitled third studio album.
The 29 year old singer, songwriter and composer wasn’t always producing tear jerking epics, and in fact began life as a drummer for various Reykjavík based metal bands before releasing his critically acclaimed neo-classical album ‘Eulogy For Evolution’ in 2007.
Having toured with Sigur Ros, his sprawling, strings infused sound is probably the most comparable to them from anyone on this list, although a closer comparison would be the seminal producer Nils Frahm, with which he has also collaborated on various releases.
As you’d probably expect from a sound so sweeping and orchestral, Arnalds has composed for various films and television shows as well as releasing his own studio work, the most famous of which is his award winning score for the BBC crime drama ‘Broadchurch’.
Seabear originally started out as founding member Sindri Már Sigfússon's solo project, after he asked two of his friends to support him playing live at a gig, because he’d never performed alone before.
From such humble beginnings the band has now expanded to be a seven strong folk pop group, and their debut album, ‘The Ghost That Carried Us Away’, highlighted lead singer Sigfússon's delicate vocals and his supporting band’s nuanced sound that layers strings, keys and acoustic guitar to create a comforting and homely sound.
Now more confident in his abilities, Sigfússon continues to release music and perform by himself under the Seabear alias.
Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, or just Ásgeir as he later became, is the youngest and has arguably the most straightforward indie folk sound of this list, although that is not to say his music is any less charming for that reason.
Releasing music in both English and his native tongue, he often re records tracks with Icelandic lyrics again in English for the international market, and as such has gained steady popularity across Europe with his laid back melodies that are reminiscent of James Vincent Mcmorrow or the Sigur Ros side project Jonsi.
He is now touring around Europe off the back of his recent studio album ‘Afterglow’, his third in five years.