I can’t explain how excited I was to hear the new FM Belfast was coming out. The list of Icelandic bands releasing new albums this year is impressive – FM Belfast, Agent Fresco, Gusgus, Epic Rain… it’s the perfect storm! In fact it was Brighter Days that prompted me to get in touch with my buddy Ingvar of Reykjavik’s Lucky Records to put in a vinyl order – there were a few other titles I’d been coveting, but FM Belfast put me over the top enough that I decided to pull the trigger and have some vinyl shipped across the Atlantic.
We’ve seen FM Belfast’s synth-pop goodness live at least four times…. maybe more. They always impress with a high energy set, and the crowds in Iceland love them. There’s just something about their relatively simple, catchy, poppy sound, so that even when they’re covering Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” and sweetly singing, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” (their version is called “Lotus” and appears on How To Make Friends) you find yourself humming along as the profanity becomes funny instead of shocking.
If there’s one thing that seems to define Brighter Days to me is the deliberateness of the songs, both musically and vocally. The beats are very distinctive sounding and clear with individual bass sounds that don’t blend together, while songs like “DeLorean” bring in a straight up chiptune influence – you’d swear some of the sounds were coming straight from your old Nintendo Super Mario Brothers cartridge, picking up lots of coins and mushrooms on the way (“Ariel” is another… including a Chipmunks-like voice at one point).
There are other influences here too. You’d be forgiven if you mistook “Holiday” for a slightly slowed down Pet Shop Boys number, right down to the harmonizing, while “Non Believer” brings in a bit more of that chiptuney element alongside a very 1980s long-note style keyboard playing, something that reminds me a touch of Berlin’s “The Metro.”
All that being said, I don’t want you to come away thinking Brighter Days is a bunch of copy-cat, derivative pop, because that’s not it at all. FM Belfast stays true to their core sound, with catchy hooks, funny and smart lyrics, and a general overall feeling of fun. “We Are Faster Than You” is a perfect example, the iconic FM Belfast style song – it’s kind of silly, but I promise you’ll find yourself humming it without even knowing you’re doing it. Like the hits “Underwear” and “American” off the band’s previous two albums, “We Are Faster Than You” is destined to be a crowd favorite.
FM Belfast is just plain fun music. And isn’t music supposed to be fun?
Brighter Days is available on vinyl, CD, and iTunes, so you don’t have an excuse. Give it a listen.