Frank YangIt’s hard to believe it was only a month ago that I was roaming the streets of Reykjavik, getting ready to dive headlong into Iceland Airwaves. Not that long ago, but enough to welcome a reminder of how much fun it all was, which I got from the Toronto Iceland Arts Festival at the El Mocambo on Sunday night, which as part of its celebration of all things Icelandic included the importing of a couple of the country’s finest up-and-coming bands.
I had thought that being the relative veterans, For A Minor Reflection would close out the evening but the quartet was instead up first, perhaps as a public service announcement as to what happens when you forget your earplugs at home. Which is to say they were loud. Really loud. But then volume is necessarily part of the equation for instrumental post-rock bands, and that’s unequivocally what For A Minor Reflection are – imagine Explosions In The Sky without the foreplay, combined with some of the hard rock riffage of Mogwai and you’re about there. Though more dynamic and punishing live than on record, they push no boundaries but are instead deft and enthusiastic practitioners of what’s already been mapped. Or in more appropriate cinematic terms, they’re a genre film that stays true to formula but is superbly executed and thrills all the same.
Of Monsters & Men were the first band I saw at Airwaves and the experience gave me a crash course in just how rabid Icelandic music fans were. Though the band had only just released their first album domestically in My Head Is An Animal, NASA – one of the city’s larger venues – was jammed with fans and the atmosphere was electric. I would later come to understand just how hot this seven-piece was their native land, having just signed a worldwide deal with Universal and being tapped to be the country’s next big musical export. Starting, it would seem, with Canada.
Though the crowd was obviously smaller than they had in Reykjavik, there were still at least a few hundred people in attendance and to judge from their enthusiasm, many seemed to already count themselves as big fans of the band. And it’s not hard to understand why – though I maintain their sound is easily summed up as Stars meets Fanfarlo, thanks to their catchy tunes, big arrangements and the boy-girl lead vocals of Raggi Þórhallsson and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, that should in no way diminish its catchiness or ability to inspire swoons from the listener. And while they clearly didn’t have far to go to win over the audience, they came across more focused than I found their hometown set as though they were bound and determined to impress. That was one reason I enjoyed this show more than the Airwaves one, the other being that I wasn’t distracted with trying to acclimate to the Airwaves experience – trust me, 800 screaming Viking descendants at your back are distracting.
Of Monsters & Men didn’t offer any timetable for when My Head Is An Animal might be available in Canada and blamed their not having any copies for sale on their own stupidity but made amends by burning sampler CD-Rs and tossing them into the audience; I know that physical media is passe these days, but it was still fun seeing folks scramble for the freebies. And it was also great to see that the phenomenon I witnessed at Airwaves, of foreign acts arriving in that country to play for the first time without knowing what to expect and being greeted by raving fans, worked in reverse as well.
I miss Iceland. Airwaves 2012 is already scheduled for October 31 to November 4 of next year. You should go.
Photos: Of Monsters & Men, For A Minor Reflection @ The El Mocambo – November 13, 2011
MP3: For A Minor Reflection – “Dansi Dans”
MP3: Of Monsters & Men – “Little Talks”
Video: For A Minor Reflection – “A Moll”
While director Vincent Morriset has handled most of the press duties surrounding the release of Sigur Rós’ live film and album Inni – out today – the band have stepped up to talk to The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, revealing that they’re intending to release a new album in the Spring. You can also watch a video of the band at a Q&A for the film at the British Film Institute.
And over at NPR, Jonsi has premiered a stream of a new song from the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s We Bought A Zoo, the album of which is out December 13.
Stream: Jonsi – “Gathering Stories”
NPR solicits a Tiny Desk Concert from Jens Lekman.
Beat has a quick Q&A with Niki & The Dove.
The San Francisco Chronicle talks to Lykke Li, in town at the Sound Academy tonight.
Head over to The Quietus to download a free compilation of Scandinavian tunes put together by Scandinavian music blog Ja Ja Ja.
France’s Herman Dune have made a date at The Horseshoe for January 19.
Video: Herman Dune – “Be A Doll And Take My Heart”
DIY talks to Twilight Sad frontman James Graham about their new album No One Can Ever Know, which has been given a release date of February 7 – Exclaim has details on the release and the first video from the album has just been made public.
Video: The Twilight Sad – “Sick”
Clash chats with Veronica Falls.
Los Campesinos! are celebrating the release of their new record Hello Sadness with a video for the title track.
Video: Los Campesinos! – “Hello Sadness”
Friendly Fires have released a new video from Pala.
Video: Friendly Fires – “Hurting”
Summer Camp have a new video for a song that doesn’t appear on their just-released debut Welcome To Condale; it was written for a nail polish. But don’t let that put you off – the song and the vid are both super-cute. JUST LIKE THE NAIL POLISH. Wait, what just happened.
Video: Summer Camp – “You Might Get Stuck On Me”
Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler have premiered a video from their forthcoming This Is Christmas album over at The Guardian.
Video: Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler – “Home For The Holidays”
And on the “oh no not the holidays already” tip, Darren Hayman has put his Christmas EP Christmas In Haworth up for stream and for sale. And less seasonally, he’s released a new video from his latest album The Ship’s Piano.
Video: Darren Hayman – “I Taught You How To Dance”
Stream: Darren Hayman / Christmas In Haworth
Ladytron have put out a new video from Gravity The Seducer; the band are profiled in The Signal and Rolling Stone.
Video: Ladytron – “Mirage”
The Quietus has an interview with Kate Bush, whose new record 50 Words For Snow is out next week.
Stream: Kate Bush / 50 Words For Snow
The Sydney Morning Herald talks to Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine.
Little Boots has released a stream of the first single from her forthcoming second album, presumably due in 2012. And a sort-of video. But probably not the real video.
Stream: Little Boots – “Shake”
Video: Little Boots – “Shake”
Le Blogotheque have posted a Take Away Show with Wild Beasts.
The Quietus talks to Esben & The Witch about their just-released Hexagons EP.
Noel Gallagher extends an olive branch to brother Liam, telling The Mirror that the guy who attacked him onstage in Toronto in 2008 should have been targeting his younger brother. All in jest. I think. He’s a little more on topic with music and his solo career in this chat with MusicRadar and offers a guide to life via MTV.
Over at The Telegraph, meanwhile, Liam Gallagher talks Beady Eye.
The Von Pip Musical Express interviews The Jezabels, in town at The Phoenix on November 24 and 25 supporting Hey Rosetta!.