I love it when mail arrives from Iceland. LOVE. IT. Because it invariably means I’m about to lay my hands on some cool-ass music. So when I went out to get the mail today and found a package from one Gunnar Lárus Hjálmarsson, I knew I was in for a treat. Because Gunnar Lárus Hjálmarsson was part of some of my favorite Icelandic bands, performing as Dr. Gunni, S.H. Draumur, and Bless. You could say he wrote the book on Icelandic popular music. Literally. Because he did. In Icelandic and English. I even bought some cool records from his collection once, most notably a copy of HAM’s Hold EP. He’s a cool dude, and a hell of a musician.
So what does the Doctor of Icelandic Music do when he turns 50? Well, he puts out a new album. Duh! And for Gunni that meant a lathe cut 10″, limited to 50 numbered copies, and launched with a live performance at arguably my favorite place in the world, Reykjavik’s Lucky Records. Damn I wish I’d been there for that show. But I’ll have to make due with seeing Gunni and Ingvar and Gestur and our other Icelandic friends in a few weeks when Iceland Airwaves ’15 kicks off in early November.
So what about í sjoppu? Well, Gunni has always liked to keep it weird, and this is no exception. The album opens with a nine second track of a New York street vendor hawking his wares on “1$” and carries it through with some different types of rock and psych across side A. Side B opens with some ukulele on “Hester” before suddenly changing things up and blowing your doors off with the hardcore punk rocker “Rollur.” Then we get a dose of musical guest Dj. Flugvél go geimskip with her amazingly captivating and bizarre electro-j-popish storytelling on “Gúmmíönd,” which is just plain awesome. “Sjöundi október” is the most classically Gunni sounding track, reminding me a ton of the songs on S.H. Draumur’s Goð.
Yes, you’ll have a hard time tracking down a copy of í sjoppu. But have no fear – you can stream the whole thing online HERE, and even buy a digital copy for a fiver. So go check it out, and wish the good doctor a happy birthday while you’re at it. See you soon, Gunni.