So I’m sitting at a computer in an apartment in Reykjavik, having just eaten too much pizza and chasing it with a box of Kókómjólk (which if you’ve never had before, you’re missing out on one of life’s great pleasures), and I’m looking over my music haul from day one of our Icelandic vacation. I hit the music stores hard today and came away with a nice stack of vinyl and CDs, and I wanted to share with you, my choosy reader, a scouting report on the music buying opportunities in the heart Iceland’s capital with a focus on Icelandic music because let’s be honest, it’s not like you’re going to be visiting and just have a sudden an overwhelming need to buy Led Zeppelin IV on vinyl. You’ll probably be looking for something local and possibly unusual, so let’s see what’s out there.
If you’ve read this blog before, you have probably come across a reference to my favorite Reykjavik record store, maybe my favorite record store in the world, Lucky Records. Since my last visit in November 2012 Lucky relocated to a location about four times larger than the old store, not only opening up more space for customers to comfortably browse but also performance space for in-stores and a full DJ set up so that owner Ingvar, aka DJ Lucky, can spin his weekly funk and soul DJ sets for Electric Lion Radio (currently from Noon to 3PM Pacific Time on Wednesdays – check him out and get funky).
The guys from Lucky knew I was coming to town and actually had some stuff on hold for me, but that didn’t stop me from browsing through all of their new and used Icelandic vinyl and CDs not once but twice and also getting some specific recommendations from my man Gestur. I spent a decent amount of time at the listening station and drinking free espresso, and after about two hours walked out of there with a pretty full box of 10 CDs and 19 records (17 12″ers, and two 10″ers).
I scored some real quality stuff, including CDs by a diverse bunch of bands including Muck, Fraebbblarnir, Quarashi, and PP Pönk, but it was in the vinyl arena that I really came out ahead. Two albums by Bubbi Morthens’ band Ego, three from new wavers Nýdönsk, the band that started the career of Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson of Gus Gus fame, and the capper, the Bítið Fast Í Vítið EP by Tappi Tikarrass, fronted a young woman later known simply as Björk. Many of these will be featured in future blog posts, which will keep me off the streets and out of trouble. Plus the coffee was good.
The bottom line is this: If you’re interested in used (or new) Icelandic vinyl, you must get yourself over to Lucky Records. Period. Accept no substitutes.
Skolavordustig 15 and inside Harpa
After spending more money than I’d care to admit or remember at Lucky, I headed over to the record store of label 12 Tonar. Their vinyl selection is housed downstairs in the two level store on Skolavordustig (the Harpa location is mostly CDs, but very well stocked), and only about 20% of the stuff in the five boxes of records was local. However, I did make an odd find – a nice copy of P.S. & Cos.’ Elettum Dur from 1985, something I’d seen on eBay once before but wasn’t familiar with. I have no idea how it ended up down there with all that new, shrinkwrapped vinyl, but I took it home along with a copy of the new CD EP by Oyama (featuring the former guitarist and singer of the Fist Fokkers), so I’m calling it a win. Overall the staff is friendly and the location convenient.
Smekkleysa (Bad Taste Records)
Like 12 Tonar, Bad Taste too is a label and a record store. I’ve done well here in the past, and they carry both new and used music – though most of the vinyl was new. I’d already bought a lot of stuff, and the only thing I picked up here was Sólstafir’s Svartir Sandar metal masterpiece on white wax (limited to 500 copies). They also had copies of the limited release of Ghostigital’s Division of Culture & Tourism, but I already received my copy via mail order so I didn’t buy another. Though I did see lead singer Einar Örn Benediktsson walking his dog earlier in the day. “Don’t you f*cking push me!”
Laugavegur 44 and Kringlan Mall
Yet another label/store combo, Skífan only carries new product as near as I can tell. They have an extensive selection of Icelandic CDs, including a lot of re-released Icelandic rock classics, and a smattering of new vinyl. This is more your typical chain record store – neat and organized with a polite and pretty knowledgeable staff. There are some bargains to be found here in the CDs, especially if you buy in quantity, and they carry DVDs as well. I didn’t find any vinyl I wanted, but I did get Skálmöld’s Baldur on CD, and I was stoked about that.
This is the classic “off the beaten path” used record store. I’d been here once before and came away empty handed, but came back for another try and dug through their decent selection of Icelandic vinyl (they have lots of vinyl and CDs, along with video games and DVDs). I took a copy of the 1981 BARA Flokkurinn album to the front and paid, and the owner mentioned that he had some higher end local stuff as well if I was interested. Hell yes I’m interested! He reached under the counter and produced a stack of about 10 records. Got it… got it… got it… got it (“you know, your collection is better than a lot of locals have”)… got it… WAIT A MINUTE! I made him go back to a copy of the Northern Lights Playhouse compilation that has been on my want list since I started buying Icelandic music, and we quickly worked out a price that made us both happy. Score!
Overall it was a successful day in Reykjavik. I think I ended up with about 23 records and 12 CDs. I still have one more stop to make – there is a record seller who sets up at the downtown flea market on Saturdays, and I intending on paying him a visit with some more hard earned Kronur in my pocket. Vinyl fans – if you’re into Icelandic music, Reykjavik certainly has stuff available for you, and even if your tastes are geared towards more standard fare, I’m pretty sure the guys at Lucky and Geislandiskabud Valda should be able to hook you up with something. So get going, already!