Whether you embark on a journey around Iceland’s Ring Road or a shorter getaway, you’ve got a few miles ahead of you, so you’d better be prepared with some music to make the trip go smoothly. We’ve got you covered with a handpicked selection our ears had fun putting up, and yes, there is much more to Icelandic music than Björk (we still love you, Björk!). Some pieces take on a special meaning as you strongly feel the artists’ connection with their native land and the inspiration they draw from Nature.
A selection of Icelandic essentials that call for infinite landscapes, endless drives, or simply freedom. Be sure to turn up the volume and enjoy the ride!
1. Sigur Rós – Sæglópur
This list can only open with Sigur Rós, whose ethereal and mystical sounds incomparably capture the rugged grandness of Icelandic landscapes and mystical atmosphere. Jónsi’s distinctive voice and instruments join in such a way that all songs build emotional connections and awaken senses. These guys will make your mind instantly wander, if they haven’t yet.
2. Kaleo – All the Pretty Girls
Kaleo has become one of Iceland’s most famous music exports that cannot go unnoticed in the international Rock scene. Although “All the Pretty Girls” is somehow reminiscent of Bon Iver, their talent stretches from subtle folk ballads to heavier blues and rock songs, like the radio hit “Way Down We Go”. This ability to play different genres and the singer's alternately smooth, husky tones perfectly echo off Iceland’s disparate landscapes.
3. Of Monsters and Men – Mountain Sound
You know artists are talented when you have difficulty picking a song from their repertoire, but “Mountain Sound” embodies all the qualities of a road trip anthem. Immerse yourself in OMAM’s dreamlike universe filled with monsters and creatures, that you would not be surprised to encounter in Iceland’s lunar landscapes or lava fields.
4. Hjaltalín – Feels like Sugar
Sigríður Thorlacius’s astonishing vocal mastery, from powerful to held-back, and Högni Egilsson’s natural charisma form a convincing symbiosis. The upbeat song “Feels like Sugar” is a perfectly balancing mix of infectious rhythms and gentler musical moments with the violin, that will make you want to hear it again by the end of the first listen.
5. Júníus Meyvant - Color Decay
The soft folk we needed comes straight from Westman Islands! Not only Júníus's voice is a beautiful ride by itself, but he is accompanied with talented musicians who give the album "Floating Harmonies" its true meaning, a subtle mix of instrumental parts and delicate texts. Let the latest sensation of Iceland seduce you with his radiant music yet reminiscent of the long winter evenings warm and cosy atmosphere.
6. Sin Fang – Because of the Blood
Sin Fang represents Icelandic rich and refined music at its very best, full of poetry and lyricism at the same time. As often in Icelandic music, reality and fantasy are closely intertwined, making for a captivating eccentricity and bizarreness. Sin Fang’s sometimes joyous sometimes nostalgic pieces won’t leave you indifferent and we are pretty sure you will want to skateboard to this indie toe-tapping song!
7. Sóley – Pretty Face
Sóley's sincere reedy voice, almost whispering, gives her music a childlike innocence and playfulness while she treats of darker themes and feelings. Sóley is also a talented multi-instrumentalist, using guitar, keyboard and percussions to speed up her songs tempo. We bet you will get goosebumps when the beat picks up and be so charmed that you will barely notice the miles flying by.
8. Seabear – I’ll Build You a Fire
Now take the above-mentioned artists Sin Fang and Sóley, add some of Iceland’s finest musicians, all successful in their careers as visual artists, and you get a creative band, whose wistful soundscapes give life to Icelandic moody landscapes. Hit play and you will enter a Mogwai-like mellow and soothing state of mind with an Arcade Fire twist!
9. Ásgeir – Nýfallið Regn
Having a poet for a father is a clear advantage when it comes to writing songs. Add to that an extraordinary talent as a composer, a warm voice, and great humility, and you have all the ingredients to become an endearing artist and hit international charts. Although all songs from Ásgeir have been translated to English, the original versions find their most profound meaning in Icelandic scenery.
10. Múm – Green Grass of Tunnel
Blending classical instrumentation with electronic beats, haunted melodies and whimsical voices, Múm is one of the most famous and prolific bands from Iceland, holding a special place in the heart of indie fans. Inspired by the mysterious terrain of Iceland, “Green Grass of Tunnel” is a good match for a long drive along some of the local natural wonders.
11. GusGus – Over
What sets GusGus apart from so many of their peers is both their mystic dark energy and approach on digital technologies. Their music is eclectic and hard to categorized with influences ranging from electro, techno, house and even trip hop, this band seems to be constantly reinventing itself and surely keeps us fascinated.
12. FM Belfast - Brighter Days
Since their foundation in 2005, FM Belfast have forged a rich take on electro-pop, imprinting it with their own sensibility and crazy world. Their simple beats and synthesizers borrowed from the ’80s will keep you energized on your drive. And if they happen to play live during your stay, do not miss your chance as these ones have made a name for themselves as one of the best live acts around, out to divulge fun!
13. Tilbury – Tenderloin
With its diversity of influences and unrelenting beat, “Tenderloin” is challenging for the title of best “drumming along to the beat on the wheel” song as you and your friends gaze at Icelandic landscapes. Like in many Icelandic bands, musicians from Tilbury have been previously playing in other bands, such as Hjaltalin, Sin Fang, and Valdimar. Looking at these artists, this new project could only turn out good!
14. Valdimar – Yfir Borgina
Sometimes not being able to understand the language allows a better focus on instruments and vocals variations, rather than words, and gives way to own interpretations. Valdimar’s smooth voice truly magnifies Icelandic language by creating an intimate atmosphere that might even get you emotional as you look out of the car window!
15. Hjálmar – Borgin
Not your average reggae band, Hjálmar mixes old-school reggae with folk music appealing to a large and diversified audience. “Borgin” combines irresistible reggae beats with spot-on downtempo pacing, and warm vocal lines that are sure to bring you nothing but good vibes.
There are so many songs and artists that would deserve to be in this list that we could just keep going on. What about you? Which are the ones you would include for a successful trip? We will share them below!
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