With a population of only 330,000, it’s amazing how much variety can be found in Iceland’s music scene. You’d think that musical influences and styles would be confined to a specific and narrow sound, yet these bands play their own blends of rock, indie, hip hop, punk, electronic, metal and more. In celebration of this diversity, we break down our five favourite Icelandic bands which we feel perfectly encapsulate the different music styles offered by the country.
Genres: Electronic, Pop, Avant-garde
It’s impossible to talk about the uniqueness of the Icelandic music scene without first talking about Björk. Having been one of the early breakout artists to define eclectic music, she has never stopped producing art for the world to appreciate. Her mind is like a sponge, absorbing inspiration and art everywhere she goes. In interviews, she recites an incredibly diverse list of inspirations, from the experimental rap of Death Grips to the fado style of Amalia Rodrigues. It’s no understatement to say that she’s a huge inspiration to budding Iceland artists who wish to follow in her genre-blending footsteps
Genres: Alternative Rock, Electronic, Punk
What immediately stands out with Fufanu, and as should be the case with any proper punk band, is their loud, punchy sound and frontman Hrafnkell Kaktus Einarsson’s eclectic onstage presence. Despite being a 5 piece band and using layer upon layer of synths and drums, they manage to create a powerful sound that is busy but not convoluted.
It’s easy to pick up where the band’s main influence comes from when you watch their music video for Ballerina In The Rain where they attempt to portray the 70’s and 80’s British punk rock era through the awful effects of green screen.
Although unintentional, the monotone style that Kaktus pulls off is eerily similar to that of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, leading to frequent comparison between the two.
Genres: Indie, Folk-tronic
Ásgeir Trausti creates a hypnotic blend of poetry, raw emotion and beautiful melodies. What makes him so unique is his ability to add atmospheric complexity to otherwise simplistic folk music.
Despite having released an English translation of his hit album In The Silence for international fans, Ásgeir sticks to his roots and still sings some of his songs in Icelandic during concerts around the world. Icelandic is a delicate and poetic language which, according to the man himself, “seems more magical and sounds better”.
Genres: Hip hop, Rap
GKR encapsulates the diverse Icelandic rap scene with his fresh, colourful personality which translates into his lyrical and musical style. Whilst his biggest hit ‘Morgunmatur’ (meaning breakfast) may sound simplistic and straightforward, the rest of his catalogue is anything but. Attending art school and collaborating with a variety of other Icelandic artists gave him a uniquely experimental take on the genre. His use of spoken word set to complex melodies also makes him sound a bit like an Icelandic version of Kendrick Lamar.
Genres: Post rock, Alternative Rock, Progressive Rock
Thank God that Icelandic record label Bad Taste thought lead-singer Jónsi’s falsetto vocals were “cute” and would attract teen girl fans because it led to the creation of one of the world’s most uniquely beautiful and ethereal bands. Falsetto vocals, made up language and bowed guitar playing are just a few of the elements that create Sigur Rós’ atmospheric, mysterious and breathtaking soundscapes. Good luck not tearing up whilst listening to these guys.
Listen for yourself below: