Harmony of the North: Iconic Icelandic Bands
Are you bored with your playlist? Don’t worry, we are about to load it up with some new and iconic Icelandic music. Iceland's music scene has exploded over the last forty years and we are so here for it! The country is home to some very talented musicians, singers, and songwriters. Most of them have taken their music worldwide and are still touring across the globe, while others are just breaking onto the scene. You may even be surprised to find out that some of these popular artists are from this small island. So let’s talk about the Icelandic bands and artists that you should check out!
A famous band that is from Iceland is Kaleo. This group of childhood friends formed their band in 2012.
They were raised in Mosfellsbær, which is a suburb of Reykjavík. Before they were popular worldwide they were known as Iceland’s number one rock band locally. Their band name translates to "the sound" in the Hawaiian language, making it a unique name.
The band members are lead vocalist and guitarist JJ Julius Son, drummer David Antonsson, bassist Daniel Kristjansson and lead guitarist Rubin Pollock. The band dropped their first album in 2013 named Kaleo.
Then in 2016, they came out with their most famous album A/B. Some popular songs that you may recognize from that album are "No Good", "All the Pretty Girls" and “Way Down We Go”. This album topped charts across the world, putting Kaleo on the map.
Then in 2021, they came out with their newest album “Surface Sounds''. This album was known for its famous hits including “I Want More” and “Break My Baby”. Kaleo is still performing and making music. Catching them performing a show in Iceland would be a bucket list experience!
Our Favorite Track: I Want More
Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson is an Icelandic singer-songwriter and musician. He also plays guitar in the Icelandic band The Lovely Lion.
Ásgeir initially thought he was going to have a career as a javelin until he got into a bad accident. After that, he became an Iceland success story.
He is also from the small town of Laugarbakki, which is a very small village in Northern Iceland. He said growing up in a small town helped him focus on his hobbies which allowed him to get better and better at music.
His debut album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn was released in 2012. The popular single "Sumargestur", made it to number two on the Tónlist, which is an unofficial but widely quoted Icelandic Singles Chart.
Other well-known tracks on this album are "Leyndarmál" and the title track "Dýrð í dauðaþögn".
After this, Ásgeir released four more albums in 2014, 2017, 2020, and 2022. Some popular songs from these albums are “King and Cross" and “Youth". You will hear so much art in his songs. He even collaborated with his father, Einar Georg Einarsson, who is a celebrated Icelandic poet.
Our Favorite Track: Youth
Of Monsters and Men
If you have had any access to the radio or the internet in the past ten years, you most likely have heard of “Of Monsters and Men”.
But did you know that this indie folk rock band was formed in Reykjavik?
In 2010, lead singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, singer and guitarist Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson, lead guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson formed the band.
They gained attention in Iceland when they won the 2010 Battle of the Bands competition which took place in Reykjavik. They shortly after released their EP “Into the Woods”. Then in 2011, they released their first studio album “My Head Is an Animal''. This album even reached number one in Australia, Ireland, and the United States.
This album included the world-famous hit “Little Talks''. This song went completely viral and was #1 on charts in many different countries.
This allowed Of Monsters and Men to play at some famous musical festivals. Including Coachella, Newport Folk Festival, Osheaga Festival, and Lollapalooza.
Then in 2014, they released Beneath the Skin which showcased "Crystals". During this time they reached 1 billion listens on Spotify, which is a huge accomplishment. They released their third album Fever Dream and Tíu in 2019 which included their hit "Alligator".
In addition to their popular album tracks the band recorded specialty songs for tv shows and movies. This includes The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Walking Dead, and Jessica Jones. The band is still making music but they are not on tour as of right now.
Our Favorite Track: Mountain Sound
GUSGUS is an Icelandic electronic music group that refuses to be called a band, instead referring to themselves as a "fjöllistahópur", which can translate into "art" or a "circus".
Formed in 1995, they have released 11 albums over the past 25 years, with 15 different members coming and going throughout the band’s existence.
Founding members Birgir Þórarinsson and Daníel Ágúst have been with the group since its inception.
Birgir Þórarinsson has witnessed the band going through all of its ups and downs. From bankruptcy, team turnover rate, drug issues, and oh so much more.
GUSGUS is a staple in Iceland that created the electronic music scene in Iceland before it was popular worldwide. Their song Love is Alone is the most popular track from their previous album released in 2021. They have also been on a European tour. GUSGUS is continuing to make music and we are so excited to see what the fjöllistahópur does next!
Our Favorite Track: Over
Daði og Gagnamagnið
Daði Freyr is the frontman of the unique band Daði og Gagnamagnið. This singer was born in Reykjavik and has a unique story and is relatively new to the scene.
Daði was initially supposed to perform his song “Think About Things” at the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2020. The event got canceled due to Covid.
Then in 2021, he was able to sing his song “10 Years” at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. He finished in 4th place, drawing attention from all over.
He was joined for his performance by the group he called Gagnamagnið. Which is made up of his sister Sigrún Birna Pétursdóttir who is a backing vocalist.
His wife Árný Fjóla Ásmundsdóttir who is a dancer and his friends Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardóttir who is backing vocalist and Stefán Hannesson who is a dancer. And finally, Jóhann Sigurður Jóhannsson who is a dancer. The group tours and performs together, providing a fun stage presence.
Daði Freyr's first EP dropped back in 2017. Shortly after in 2019 his first studio album was released, & Co. Then in 2021 the album “Welcome “ hit the scene.
This album contained the Daði og Gagnamagnið ‘s most popular songs. Including 10 Years, Feel The Love, and Think About Things. Since Daði Freyr is newer to the scene, we can’t wait to see what the group has in store for us!
Our Favorite Track: Think About Things
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the kids out there. The Icelandic punk children’s band Pollapönk is a family favorite.
The band was formed in 2006 by singer Heiðar Örn Kristjánsson and lead guitarist Haraldur Freyr Gíslason. They were both initially from the rock band Botnleðja and were both teachers. Their vision was to create music that could be enjoyed by both children and their families.
They created their album Pollapönk as a project for the Iceland University of Education’s graduation. After this, Haraldur's brother Arnar Þór Gíslason and Guðni Finnsson joined the band, where drums and bass were added. This prompted a second album release in 2019 for their Meira Pollapön album. Then in 2011, another album was released by Aðeins Meira Pollapönk.
In 2014, their song "Enga fordóma", which was about anti-bullying, won the Eurovision Song Contest. The song was translated into English and is commonly known as “No Prejudice”. The band hasn’t done much since 2014 but their song is still popular throughout the world and has gained a lot of awareness for children and bullying. We are excited to see if they make a comeback in the next few years.
Our Favorite Track: No Prejudice
Bríet Ísis Elfar, more commonly known as Bríet, is a female Icelandic singer from Reyjavik. This 23-year-old began her musical career by singing in jazz bars and performing at off-venue concerts in Iceland. You may even recognize her for her participation in Iceland Got Talent.
Bríet sings in both Icelandic and English. Her first single, "In Too Deep" was released in 2018. Then her album Kveðja was released two years later in 2020. Which had a unique blend of Scandinavian pop music and country music. Eight songs from the album made it to Spotify's Top 10 list for Iceland as well.
Recently in 2021, Bríet was selected as the album of the year at the 2021 Icelandic Music Awards. She is an artist to keep your eye on and we expect her to blow up worldwide over the next year. We are filled with excitement to see what this rising star is going to bring to the table.
Our Favorite Track: Cold Feet
Get ready to listen to the music of Jón Ragnar Jónsson who was also a former soccer player. His music style is known as the Icelandic version of Jack Johnson.
Jón has been sharing his music with us since ten years old and also studied music in his local school. From there, he attended Boston University on a soccer scholarship.
During this time he pursued writing, recording, and performing his songs at local venues in Boston. After he graduated he returned to Iceland where music became his primary career.
Singles “Kiss in the Morning”, “Lately” and “When You’re Around” got a lot of time on the radio. This allowed him to gain popularity before his album, Wait for Fate, was released in 2011. He performed at different festivals in Iceland including Icelandic Culture Night, Icelandic National Day, and the Þjóðhátíð Music Festival.
Then in 2012, he got his big break when he traveled to New York. He had an audition with Reid’s Epic Records Label and was signed.
Since then he has put out popular singles such as "Feel for You" in 2013, "Ljúft að vera til" in 2013, and "Ykkar Koma" in 2015. He hasn’t come out with anything new in the past few years, but we are just patiently waiting for a new single drop!
Our Favorite Track: All, You, I
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