“Record Records 10th Anniversary 2007-2017” Compilation (2017)

Normally things on Life in the Vinyl Lane take a hard turn to all things Icelandic in early November, generally running through the end of the year.  The reason, of course, is because that’s when we head to Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves and return home with a bag full of amazing new (and not so new) albums to share with you.  But this year my record pusher dealer enabler collecting friend Ingvar came to Seattle for a visit and brought with him a big box of stuff that Reykjavik’s Lucky Records had on hold for me.  That means that my “To Listen To” shelf is full of Icelandic records (and a smattering of tapes), so we’ll be getting an early start on Airwaves this year.  Don’t fret though, because Ingvar and I did a fair amount of record shopping here in Seattle during his visit too, picking up a lot of interesting non-Icelandic stuff and meaning I have so much “To Listen To” stuff right now that it’s actually causing me anxiety.

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So without further ado, I’m dropping the needle on the beautiful 2XLP Icelandic label comp Record Records 10th Anniversary 2007-2017.  I was lucky enough to get the red vinyl version, which is limited to 100 copies and comes in simple and elegant gatefold

The Record Records roster is deep – Of Monsters and Men, Retro Stefson, Agent Fresco, Mammút, Vök… it’s an Icelandophile’s dream.  Of the 15 bands on the album there’s only one that I haven’t heard of – Ensími; and I’ve managed to see about 2/3 of them live over the years.  You don’t really need me to tell you much about a label comp that’s this deep – these are great bands, and while I may personally have made a few different song selections, they definitely go this one right. (♠)  Most of the tracks are from the second half of the label’s lifetime, including some new 2017 tunes like Mammút’s “The Moon Will Never Turn On Me” and Moses Hightower’s “Mjóddin”, giving the whole thing a more contemporary feel.

Is Record Records 10th Anniversary 2007-2017 a good Icelandic music primer?  Yes… but with caveats.  Record Records has a certain style, so while there’s rock, reggae, and singer-songwriter stuff, you won’t hear any punk or metal or electronica.  What you will get though is a broader sample of the type of stuff that you may catch of whiff of on the radio, and there are some beautiful performances here such as Vök’s “BTO” and “Jolly Good” by Ojba Rasta.  I know one thing for sure though, and that’s that this record is getting me hyped for Iceland Airwaves 2017!

(♠) OK… I definitely would have included a song by Bloodgroup… but given that they’re no longer active, I can understand their exclusion.

Iceland Airwaves 2015 – Day 1

If body odor has a home, someplace it resides while waiting to attach itself to your body after a hard workout or just some poor decision making, that address is the basement of Reykjavik’s Bar 11.

But more on that in a bit.

Iceland Airwaves 2015 officially got underway on Wednesday, and that means my record shopping also began.  And given how much stuff I bought, it may have also ended because I have to figure out how to get all of this stuff home, which will be no easy task.

I spent a couple of hours at my favorite shop first thing this morning, flipping through the Icelandic vinyl at Lucky Records and coming away with a number of gems.  Newish releases by Pink Street Boys, Futuregrapher, Fufanu, President Bongo, and more were augmented by some OG classics like Purrkur PillnikkFræbbblarnir, and Rikshaw.  I added a handful of CDs for good measure before heading up to Reykjavik Record Store where I picked up a few more gems, including a vinyl copy of Legend’s Fearless and a personalized signed copy of the new record by Manu Delago, known for his hang playing, at his in-store event.  My record bag was so heavy by time I stumbled back to our apartment that I’m pretty sure I tore my rotator cuff.

As for the music, we showed up at Bar 11 just before 3:30, when Elín Helena we due on stage, but arrived to find a small group of people huddled outside and the front door locked.  It wasn’t until about five minutes after the scheduled start time that someone advised us that we’d have to enter through the back door and go downstairs (because Bar 11), which would have been amazing to know sooner.  Adding to the confusion, the band on stage was not Elín Helena but instead a relatively young, but pretty talented, group called Vára who played a somewhat punkish style in the stinky, stale basement.

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After a break for dinner we walked a few blocks to the 12 Tónar record store to hear Gusgus‘ President Bongo perform his newly released electronic album, Serengeti.  One of the electro geniuses behind Gusgus’ sound, Bongo didn’t disappoint with an intriguing 30+ minutes of non-stop music inside the cramped upstairs of the store.  I’m looking forward to giving the new record a more detailed listening when we return home.

 

From there we headed down to the venerable venue NASA, the first place we ever saw an Airwaves show all the way back in 2009.  NASA has not been part of Airwaves for the last three years, having been closed down with plans on demolishing it to build a hotel.  Thanks at least in part to the local community, who did not want to lose such an outstanding concert hall, NASA was saved, cleaned up, and added to the list of official venues for this years’ Airwaves.  It was so freshly remodeled we could smell the paint inside.

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The first band we heard at NASA on Wednesday was the Icelandic duo Wesen, featuring vocalist Júlía Hermannsdóttir (also of Oyama) and electronics guy/vocalist Loji Höskuldsson (also of Sudden Weather Change), who impressed me with their darker style of electro-pop.  Next up was Halleluwah (above), whose self-titled album came out earlier this year and was reviewed on the blog HERE.  Simply put, they stole the show and won the night with their blend of 1920s/1930s style updated as a more modern electronic sound.  Rakel Mjöll was absolutely and endearingly wonderful on stage, an expressive singer with an unusual voice, one perfectly suited to the music the band is currently playing.  After that was Royal, the project combining Borko (of FM Belfast fame) and Futuregrapher (of Futuregrapher fame), who played a surprising uptempo set featuring some truly quirky songs that quickly won over the audience.

Then it was time to take a move in the hip hop direction.  The feminist collective known as Reykja­vík­ur­dæt­ur burst out onto the stage all wearing what can be best described as flesh-toned undergarments.  Not lingerie – but just practical stuff to wear under your clothes.  Known for their political/feminist presence and songs, much of that was lost on us due to our inability to speak Icelandic.  There was, however, one song sung in English.  And it was about the joys of anal sex.  In detail.  So there’s that.  Next was Gísli Pálmi, who gained international cred recently for knocking out (literally) Bam Margera of Jackass fame at a festival earlier this year.  Gísli and his Glacier Mafia (their term, not mine) put on a fast paced set.  The beats were excellent, and though Pálmi at times appeared to try almost a little to hard to be truly hip hop, I have to credit him for his energy, delivery, and stage-presence – the man knows how to put on a show and he had the crowed bouncing and, after removing his shirt, a few of the ladies standing near us eyeing him like he was a steak and they had just given up being vegetarians.

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That took us to the closing act, Retro Stefson.  Now, I’m not going to be ridiculous enough to imply that Iceland somehow has the market cornered on party bands, but I do know this – two of the funnest party bands in the world are FM Belfast and Retro Stefon, and on the occasions that the two combine as one on stage it’s a total blow-out.  We first saw Retro Stefson when they were still a fairly young band back in 2010, and they’ve grown leaps and bounds since then.  It had been a few years since we’d seen them at Airwaves, though, and frankly they started off seemingly a little slow and uncertain of one another.  But the positive vibes built quickly and by the middle of the set they had the crowd in the palms of their hands, even running a dance contest on the main floor.  They still have it, and it was the perfect way to end the first night of the festival.

If this is how good the rest of the week is going to be, we’re in for some good times and not a lot of sleep.