I’m switching things up this month. Instead of focusing on the musical output of one band or artist, I decided to listen to all the albums on a list of favorite albums from one artist. That artist is Guðbjörg Tómasdóttir of the duo My Bubba, she being the Icelandic Bubba with her Swedish partner My Larsdotter. My Bubba have appeared in my Song of the Week posts on two occasions for their tracks “Poem Found in the Pocket of an Amazon” and “Big Bad Good” and the latter song also made my favorite songs of 2016 list.
I found 7 of the 8 albums on streaming services. So here is my venture into Icelandic sometimes folkish, sometimes jazzy, often minimalist, and always vocal oriented popular music
Artist: Björk Guðmundsdóttir & Tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar
Album: Glíng-Gló (1990)
Favorite Tracks: “Kata rokkar,” “Tondeleyo,” and “Börnin við tjörnina”
Thoughts: I suspect this isn’t for everyone, but if you find the idea of Björk crooning jazz standards in her native tongue appealing, then this album is for you.
Artist: Emilíana Torrini
Album: Fisherman’s Woman (2005)
Favorite Tracks: “Nothing Brings Me Down,” “Today Has Been OK”
Thoughts: If Björk’s voice doesn’t do it for you, Emilíana Torrini’s is more accessible, both ethereal and emotive. Her style reminds me of the English folk rock movement of the 1970s but these tracks are accompanied by minimalist guitar.
Artist: Ólöf Arnalds
Album: Við Og Við (2007)
Favorite Tracks: “Í Nýju Húsi”
Thoughts: Troubadour-style performances of traditional Icelandic music. Again, I’m reminded of the folk revival styles of the 60s & 70s, but in Icelandic.
Artist: Sigurður Guðmundsson og Memfismafían
Album: Oft spurði ég mömmu (2008)
Favorite Tracks: “Lady Fish And Chips” and “Veðrið er herfilegt”
Thoughts: Another retro album described as “old Icelandic popular tunes,” but here “old” sounds like pop songs of the 30s to 50s. And it’s pretty clear that one of them is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which sounds more sexy than creepy in Icelandic. I can’t find anything on the web about this album in English, but the vocalist has a Frank Sinatra vibe, and the whole album swings.
Album: Haglél (2011)
Thoughts: This album apparently resonated strongly with the people of Iceland, but I’m not as impressed. Of course, I know nothing of the lyrics, but musically it sounds like 70s pop songs with maybe a little 90s angst.
Album: Undraland (2010)
Thoughts: Cheerful indie pop. The brass section moves this from mundane to a bit interesting.
Album: Fantômas (2016)
Favorite Tracks: “Simplon Express” and “Entrepots de Bercy”
Thoughts: This was composed as a score for a 100-year-old silent film, and it’s a beautiful work of minimalist post-rock. Definitely worth listening to if that’s your bag.
That’s my music discovery for the month, let me know if there’s something I should be listening to in May by leaving a comment!