FM Belfast – “Island Broadcast” (2017)

It may seem weird to blog followers that I haven’t posted about FM Belfast’s most recent album yet.  The reason for this is that I wrote a review of it for the magazine Reykjavik On Stage, and the latest issue finally came out so now I feel OK about posting this on the blog.  If you haven’t checked out Reykjavik On Stage yet, you owe it to yourself to do so HERE – it’s the first English-only magazine devoted to the Icelandic music scene.  So without further ado…

 

fmbelfastisland

We stopped FM Belfast’s Reykjavik office in November to pick up a copy of the band’s newest album, Island Broadcast. Welcoming us was artist and band member Lóa Hlín Hjálmtýsdóttir, and during the course of our visit we asked what she thought about all the construction cranes visible outside her window and the changes to the downtown cityscape. She compared it to living in the movie Dark City, where every morning you wake up to find that things have been somehow changed overnight and noted, with a sigh, that she missed some of the buildings the same way she would an old friend. That underlying mood can be found throughout Island Broadcast, its beats and chords seemingly slowed down just a bit giving the whole thing a certain languid quality, like being lost in a dream. It would be easy for an album like this to become morose. But that’s not who FM Belfast are. In fact, if there’s one word I would use to describe Island Broadcast, that word is “hope”.

The message of hope is found throughout the lyrics of the album’s 11 songs. Right from the opening track “All My Power” we’re asked to help one another escape the lethargy we feel, “Would you mind / Helping me up / Helping me up / I’ve been in bed all day…”, setting the tone for what’s in store. And if that was too ambiguous for you, the second song “Follow Me” makes it crystal clear: “Don’t give them what they want / They’ll always ask for more / They can’t have you happy / They need your desperation.” But don’t worry my friends, because there is hope, right in the very next verse: “You’re no longer blind / You can follow me / I can open your eyes / You don’t have to be in the dark.”

The lyrics are only one part of the equation, though. You don’t become the world’s best party band without great music, and sonically Island Broadcast provides a level of diversity that is often lacking in electronic-based albums. Certainly the beats are great, but it’s the flourishes that give the songs individual character. Whether that’s the piano on “Up All Night”, the sampling on “Fearless Youth”, or the tropical vibe of the steel drums on “You’re So Pretty”, FM Belfast always find a way to make each song unique. When performed live they pick up the tempo, feeding off the energy of the crowd and transforming the songs from messages of hope to celebrations of it, creating that positive party atmosphere that is like a shot of pure dopamine to the brain.

FM Belfast has given us a gem in Island Broadcast, an album with an important and positive message that’s also a lot of fun to listen to. And what more can you really ask for from your music?