There are concerts and there are compulsory concerts. There are musical events and there are mandatory musical events. There are notes to take note of—and there are non-elective notes to take note of. What we’re talking about here is the latter, i.e. local artists that guests of the Iceland Airwaves 2019 music festival should not miss. They’re unmissable. Nonmissable. Amissable.
GDRN has the voice of an angel … investor, whispering dollar signs into the ears of a despairing entrepreneur. She looks like a million buckaroos. Trendy. Stylish. Suave. She’s got a song called Af og til that hasn’t been officially released, but it’s the bee’s knees: a soulful, g-funk-ish, pop masterpiece. GDRN hails from Mosfellsbær and released her debut album, Hvað ef, in 2018. A year later, she came away from the Icelandic Music Awards with four awards: best pop album, best pop song, best female singer, and music video of the year. She’s sometimes called “Queen G.”
2. Moses Hightower
Named after Police Academy’s famed florist-turned-police-officer, Moses Hightower is capable of leading any philistine out of … whatever the philistine-equivalent of Egypt is – and to the promised land of soul, psychedelia, and yacht rock. (“Yacht rock” is such a fun word.) Formed in 2007 and based out of Reykjavík, Moses Hightower comprises drummer Magnús Trygvason Eliassen, bassist and singer Andri Ólafsson, and keyboard player and singer Steingrímur Karl Teague. The band has released three critically-acclaimed full-length albums: Búum til börn (Let’s Make Babies), Önnur Mósebók (The Second Book of Moses), and Fjallaloft (Mountain Air). Háa C (High C) – a bittersweet, feel-good slam dunk – may rank as our favourite Moses’ song. Also, they’re an absolute treat live.
Vök released its sophomore album In the Dark in March of this year. According to Everything is Noise’s mysteriously mononymic Adam (no full name available on the web site), with In the Dark Vök, “have crafted a piece of work that perfectly captures and confidently meets the huge potential that their debut promised.” And that’s nice. All of us hope to live up to our potential. Vök was formed in 2013 by singer Margrét Magnúsdóttir and saxophonist Andri Enoksson. The band released its debut album, Figure, in 2017. As of March 2019, the band’s line-up consists of Margrét, Einar Stefánsson and Bergur Dagbjartsson. What’s On recommends the song Autopilot.
Part performance art, part political satire, Iceland’s favourite bondage-pop trio Hatari stirred up controversy at this year’s Eurovision by waving Palestinian scarves during the contest. Before Hatari reached a popular audience, their live performances were commonly broached during water-cooler conversations at local offices (superlatives galore). Hatari was formed in mid-2015 by cousins Klemens Hannigan and Matthías Haraldsson. Hannigan later played the songs for Einar Stefánsson (Vök), who subsequently became Hatari’s drummer. The band released its debut EP album Neysluavara (Consumer Product) in 2017. What’s On recommends the song Hatrið mun sigra (the band’s Eurovision entry). It may be a tad trite, but it’s still relevant. Contributors for Hatari include Sólbjört Sigurðardóttir, Sigurður Andrean Sigurgeirsson, and Ástrós Guðjónsdóttir, all of whom are considered part of Hatari, and act as choreographers and dancers for the group (Sólbjört and Ástrós also provide backing vocals).
5. Aron Can
Like most everyone else, we’ve been mildly captivated by the young Auto-Tune crooner ever since Enginn mórall—a sparse and somewhat spooky Trap earworm—was released in 2016. Three years, and loads of impersonators, later, the Can-man remains one of Iceland’s most popular rappers. And he’s only just recently turned consenting adult. (Actually, he’s like 21 or something.) Aron Can has released three albums: Þekkir stráginn (You know that boy) in 2016, ÍNÓTT (TONIGHT) in 2017, and Trúpíter in 2018. Fullir vasar remains Aron Can’s most popular song with almost 2.5 million streams on Spotify.