Grísalappalísa – “Grísalappalísa Syngur Stuðmenn” 7″ (2015)

grisalappalissasutdmennThis is the second in the series of 7″ records featuring Icelanders Grísalappalísa doing covers of seminal Icelandic popular musicians.  They started with a two-song tribute to Megas called Grísalappalísa Syngur Megas in 2013, and just about six weeks ago put out their second, a 7″ dedicated to Stuðmenn.  Like it’s predecessor, Grísalappalísa Syngur Stuðmenn is a limited edition release, but keep in mind that the numbering of each copy is on a sticker attached to the reverse of the plastic sleeve that holds the jacket – so don’t toss it!  The Megas record was limited to 250 copies, and I assume this one is similar in size (though mine is a low number, so I can’t be sure).  Also like the Megas record, it’s on colored vinyl, this time a nice baby blue.  As soon as I saw it was out I reached out to my friends in Reykjavik over at Lucky Records and ordered myself a copy (which, of course, meant ordering other stuff too… <sigh>… the life of the vinyl junkie).

While the record itself only has two tracks, “Strax Í Dag” and “Reykingar” the download card includes a third as well – “Búkalú” (which is actually my favorite of the three).  “Strax Í Dag” appeared on Stuðmenn’s debut album from 1975, Sumar Á Sýrlandi, a record that put them on the map as probably the most popular band in Iceland.  “Reykingar” is from a split LP they did as part of a movie project in 1982 with the all-female new wave/punk band Grýlurnar called Með Allt Á Hreinu, an album I’ve actually written about before on Life in the Vinyl Lane.  The secret download only song “Búkalú” dates from the 1985 release Í Góðu Geimi, the only of the three Stuðmenn originals I don’t own.  Might need try to track a copy down when we’re at Airwaves in November.

This is a fun little record.  “Strax Í Dag” is done in a sort of lo-fi, half drunken slurred way, while the sax intro to “Reykingar” sets the tone for a bluesy type number.  “Búkalú” is the gem, though, opening with some 80s style synth madness, more synth-pop than new wave and really cool.  I like that a locally popular band like Grísalappalísa is paying tribute to their home-grown popular music influences, and doing it with these unique one-off 7″ releases.  As long as they keep putting them out, I’ll keep buying them.

Jobbi Maggadon – “Og Dýrin Í Sveitinni” 10″

We got back from Reykjavik and Iceland Airwaves a few days ago, and I brought back a fat stack of vinyl and CDs, as well as a wicked head cold that feels like it’s turning into something worse, thanks most likely to the woman across the aisle from me.  Certainly not a perfect ending to the trip, but if you’re going to get sick it’s better to do it when you get home and not when you arrive.  That would have sucked.

Despite feeling low grade crappy, I figured I still had enough energy to spin a 10″ I picked up at the Reykjavik flea market.  I had no idea when I bought this who Jobbi Maggadon was.  All I knew was this was a 10″ on white vinyl, and the dude on the cover was carrying a pig and a cow.  If that isn’t reason enough to buy a record, I don’t know what is. The jacket reverse is also signed and numbered (#1,419), though I don’t know how many copies were released.  Honestly, I thought this was a punk record so I was a bit surprised when I looked up Jobbi on Discogs.  Surprised, but not necessarily disappointed because I like jazz.  This is what happens when you have vinyl fever and a wad of krónur burning a hole in your pocket.

Turns out old Jobbi Maggadon (real name Jakob Magnússon) was not only quite the jazz man, but also a one-time member of the Icelandic super-group Stuðmenn.  Recorded in 1978, Og Dýrin Í Sveitinni (“And Animals in the Countryside”… hence the pig and cow) is a pretty slick jazz-rock fusion record.  “Það Gutlar á Hænunni” is the most intriguing track, featuring a sort of Peter Frampton-esque “Do You Feel Like We Do” sound effect on it.  Side A is more jazzy… side B a bit more rockish.

I’ve said before I’m not much of a prog rock guy, and I think this kind of fusion jazz probably best appeals to fans of that genre.  That being said, it’s decent and instrumental, making it good dinner/cocktail music for sure.

Stuðmenn and Grýlurnar – “Með allt á hreinu”

One of the challenges about being into Icelandic vinyl is that it isn’t easy to find.  Even in Reykjavik your options for older records is severely limited, with Lucky Records and some people who sell at the flea market as your best options.  Combine that with most releases never being issued outside of or exported from Iceland and the country’s small population, there weren’t a lot of copies pressed of most albums.  A lot of the classics have been reissued on CD, and I stocked up on quite a few when I was there last fall (eliciting an observation from the guy ringing me up at the store, “not the stuff I usually see tourists buying…”), but at the end of the day I’m still more into the vinyl.  So what’s an Icelandic vinyl collector living in Seattle to do?

Well, fortunately we live in the age of fancy computers and Al Gore’s invention, the internet, so I have access to other music fans and businesses who are interested in selling their vinyl to me.  And that, friends, is how I came across this nice copy of Með allt á hreinu for what I thought was a very reasonable price… in fact my total cost was less than it would have cost me just to have one record shipped from Iceland.  How this record made it’s way across the Atlantic I’ll never know, but I was glad to find it.  Sorry to my record selling friends in Reykjavik – I promise I’ll keep buying stuff from you when I’m in the country, but I can’t pass up deals when I find them.

Með allt á hreinu is actually a movie soundtrack (which translates roughly to “On Top”) released at the very end of 1981, followed by the film itself in 1982.  The comedy follows the antics of two real bands, the all-male Stuðmenn and the all-female Grýlurnar, as they tour the country, develop a rival, and engage in general hijinks.  I’ve reviewed Grýlurnar before on a previous blog post, and while they were more on the punkish side, Stuðmenn are pretty much all over the place, known more as good-time group that doesn’t stick to any one genre and often incorporates comedy in their music.  This joint album was both very popular (allegedly 18,000 copies printed) and highly regarded, with Jonatan Gardarsson and Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen listing it as the 15th best Icelandic album of all time.  Gardarsson and Thoroddsen’s book is a great resource to get a handle on some of the best in Icelandic music (Sigur Ros holds down the top spot with Agaetis byrjun), or at least it is in pictures since I don’t speak and therefore can’t read Icelandic.  With no Rosetta Stone Icelandic looking to be available any time in the near future, I think I’m screwed.

Með allt á hreinu covers the gamut musically.  You’ve got doo-wop, new wave, adult contemporary, easy listening, island beats, calypso (yes, calypso), Elvis-esque crooning, and I’m pretty sure I even heard a kazoo in there.  It’s too bad hip hop hadn’t made it to Iceland yet, as I’d like to hear how they would have incorporated that into the mix too.  It reminds me a lot of the Grease soundtrack actually – it’s a bit over the top and exaggerated, and more or less all over the place.  The musicianship is great though, so the weaving in and out of all the different styles is actually quite enjoyable, as is the mix of male and female vocals.  I suspect I’m missing out on a lot of the fun of this album by not knowing Icelandic, but the quality of the sound still makes for a great listening experience, so if you have an open mind and can track down a copy give it a shot.