Back in the 60s, North America was beginning to experience new and revolutionary kinds of music. From the Beatles to the Animals, to the Who, the British music scene made its way to the continent with fervor and vigor. This mass musical migration was dubbed the British Invasion. There now seems to be a new country slowly invading the indie music scene in our continent, the small 320 000 person nation of Iceland.

Though this country might have about 63 and a half million fewer people than the UK, do not let its small stature deceive you, for what it lacks in population it makes up in musical talent!

For a while, the only artist that most people knew coming out of Iceland was probably Bjork (and maybe Sigur Ross). Her unique and celestial voice earned her a lot of fame in North America and she was named one of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time by the Rolling Stone.

In 2011, with the release of their first album My Head is an Animal however, Of Monsters and Men began to change the singular image of the Icelandic music scene into one that was based around indie folk rock with hits like Mountain Sound and Little Talks.

Now, following Of Monsters and Men, new artists have hit the indie scene with unique and passionate tracks that have begun to make headway into North America.

One such artist worth noting is Junius Meyvant. His soothing sounds and soulful voice is reminiscent of some sort of modern Motown. It’s a funky brand of indie folk with mellow head-bopping melodies.

The sounds of his newest album Floating Harmonies are both simple and complex and are full of rich instrumentals and tight rhythms in each track. Below are two of the songs I’ve selected from the album.

Hailslide from Meyvant’s new album

Neon Experience 

Another artist from Iceland who has gained more acclaim than most these days is Ásgeir, based in Reykjavik. Only 24, Ásgeir has already gained global acclaim, having had hits on worldwide charts. His melodic folk pop, is similar to Meyvant’s but is more sombre.

Instead of choosing one of Ásgeir’s originial songs, I have selected a cover of a Nirvana song to showcase his versatility. This version is chilling and powerful and might even shake Cobain himself.

Cover of Heart-Shaped Box originally by Nirvana

A few months ago, a friend of mine went to Iceland and picked up a record on vinyl for me,  Lay Low‘s Talking About the Weather. Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, known by her stage name Lay Low has actually been around since 2006.

Although I have been trying to avoid the comparison, her voice is reminiscent of Bjork, the pitch and tone specifically. The music from this album is calming, something you’d listen to while it’s raining outside but it can also be sombre and serious and exudes several complex emotions.

One of Those Nights from Talking About the Weather  

The beauty of these Icelandic artists and their music scene is that it’s mostly experimental and they aren’t afraid to do things their own way. This has been true since Bjork and this is what makes it so interesting and exciting. Reykjavik is a hotbed of great indie music and will be for years to come.

* Featured image of Lay Low via grapevine.is

Five is my favourite number. My reasoning is that you have five fingers, five toes and five senses. It’s a pretty damn stable and practical number. So, I automatically like this year’s M for Montreal festival (can you connect the dots? If not read here). Yesterday was the launch of the Festival and this is what my hears heard, eyes saw and body did.

Last night, November 17th, 2010 @ Café Campus the first round of artists for M for Montreal premiered. Interestingly enough the lineup jumped from Iceland to Montreal to Iceland and back to Montreal (Icelandair must be lovin’ us these days). Here’s last night’s list of bands you may have missed (and in performing order ‘cause I’m a nerd like that): Retro Stefson, Braids, Lay Low and We Are Wolves. Not too bad of a list, but I’m gonna focus on catching my flight to Iceland. So, how was the flight you ask? Well, here are the under the radar goods…

Have you ever seen the movie Saturday Night Fever? Of course you have. Not only have you seen it, you most likely practiced all the best moves for some Halloween costume you had (don’t lie; I’ve seen you do it on YouTube). Well, it’s a good thing I also practiced because last night when Retro Stefson was performing, they encouraged us to pull out our best disco moves and we did.

Retro Stefson got us dancing, yet we were all one step behind, of course that was until they instructed us. That’s right – we got dance lessons from Retro Stefson, not just any kind of dance lessons, disco dance lessons. Good thing we’ve both practiced in our spare time. Retro Stefson’s indie-disco sound make your shoulders shimmy with your feet, all while making Richard Simmons jealous as fuck. I almost feel like Chromeo should be Facebook friends with these kids. The young Icelandic band turned the entire crowd into a scene from Saturday Night Fever, minus that sick light-up floor (Café Campus should really do something about that).   If you don’t believe me, get out the long, stand-up mirror you own and listen to their soundcloud. Don’t forget to put on that costume and I promise not to tell anyone you’re secretly doing disco moves by yourself in front of a mirror…hehe.

When Retro Stefson was finished we were ordered to climb the stairs of Café Campus to watch Braids perform in the room with a bigger stage. At that point I went out for a walk. No worries, I made it back for Lay Low.

Lay Low is another very young Icelandic band whose folkish, daisy picking in the fields sound will help you cool down the sweat that was dripping from your dance session, and put you into a light, day dreamy state. I’m not sure if you listen to Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline, but it’s that same kind of 50’s country jingle, with a new age feel. You know the kind were you sway back-and-forth and feel like you’re at your grandparents (or great-grandparents or just parents age dependent) high school dance. The one where the punch gets spiked and you meet the love of your life. That’s pretty much what we did, admired Lay Low like we were eye-gazing into the love of our teenage life.

Once again, when Lay Low was done performing we were soberly(?) asked to crawl back up the stairwell that lead to
the larger stage in the upper level of Café Campus to observe We Are Wolves.

(WARNING! Honesty below)

……………..Okay. We Are Wolves. Yes.
Well, they do wear fur hats that could be made from dead wolves.

I am not a fan of We Are Wolves live. Their sound is too big for any venue other than a stadium. I know you’re probably about to curse me out via your screen (haha sucker, you’re only cursing at the screen…ha). But, let me explain, then go ahead and do what you gotta do.

We Are Wolves are veteran Montreal rockers, who are local-famous and every time I hear them live all I can think is, “does everyone enjoy having their ear drums blown into tiny bits while the rest of their head explodes and their body shakes like it’s that fucking hip-shaker machine made in the 60’s to help you lose weight.” I just can’t get my head around it. Every time I’ve seen them I leave before the show is even at the halfway point. But, whatever, that’s just my opinion and I am still not a fan.

Anyway, if you missed Retro Stefson and Lay Low go check out their MySpaces or search them on Grooveshark.com and Soundcloud.com. If you really like them, download their albums (Retro Stefson: Kimbabwe & Lay Low: Farewell Good Night’s Sleep) and help them pay their rent.

Cool beans. Here’s tonight and tomorrow’s M for Montreal showcase. See you there.

Retro Stefson and Lay Low played @ Café Campus on November 17th, 2010. We got dance lessons. We dreamed in the venue and got to see what’s up with Iceland Airwaves. All while being under the radar.