Monthly Archives: June 2012

Sigur Rós – Valtari

I was so excited to learn that one of my favourite Icelandic bands, Sigur Rós, had recently released  new album! And I couldn’t believe that I didn’t hear about it sooner! The fact that I haven’t talked about them sooner is even more offensive! Sigur Rós started making music in the early-mid nineties. They have a minimalist/ethereal sound that is truly incredible. It is very easy to get completely lost when their music envelops you. They also have a lot of classical influence in their sound. The lead singer, Jónsi Birgisson, has a spine-tingly falsetto voice that is perfect for their music. His voice is one of the most recognizable features in their songs, as well as musical techniques like the bowed guitar. When I first saw a video of them playing bowed guitar, I immediately had to whip out my cello bow and my guitar – magic!

The band’s international success came with the release of their second album, Ágætis byrjun, in 1999. Critics hailed the albums as one of the greats of its time. Songs from the album found their way into a lot of media, including the film Vanilla Sky and TV show Queer As Folk.  Jónsi’s signature style of vibrato bowing on his guitar started to become a defining feature for their music. In 2002, the band released one of my favourite albums, ( ). Upon its release, all of the tracks and album itself were untitled, but they later gave them titles on their website. All of the lyrics on the album are sung in “Volenska” – also called “Hopelandic” – which is a completely artificial language made up of Icelandic phonemes. As a linguist/music theorist, this is something that I find incredibly fascinating!

Their fourth album, Takk… (“Thanks…”) goes back to the distinctive sound of their second album in a more rock oriented structure with greater use of the guitar, and was released in September 2005. “Hoppípolla” (“Puddle jumping”), the second official single from Takk…, was released in November alongside a new studio remake of “Hafsól”  (Sun”), a song that was previously released on the band’s 1997 debut, Von. “Hoppípolla” was used in the trailers for the BBC’s natural history series Planet Earth in 2006, as well as the closing credits for the 2006 FA Cup final, ITV’s coverage of the 2006 Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, advertisements for the BBC’s coverage of England games during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, on television advertisements for RTÉ’s Gaelic games coverage in Ireland, and on an advertisement for Oxfam. It was also used in the final scene of the movie Penelope, for the trailer of the film Children of Men and for the trailer of the film Slumdog Millionaire.  This song is also used in the trailer for the Disney movie Earth. This is another one of my favourite albums.

I completely missed the release of their fifth album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (“With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly”) in 2008 and must immediately remedy this. Stylistically different from their earlier releases, it featured fewer strings and more guitar, and had more pop-oriented songs, described as “the group’s most accessible effort” while maintaining the “majestic beauty that defines the band’s music.” Fun fact: the final track “All Alright” is the band’s first to be sung in English, though all the other lyrics are in Icelandic.

And that brings us toValtari. Bassist Georg Hólm described the album as having “more electronic stuff than before” but not being “a dance album”. I loved it right away. It has exactly the sound I’ve come to expect from the group, while being fresh at the same time. There’s really no other way to describe it as simply beautiful, haunting, and yet optimistic. Sigur Rós have given a dozen film makers the same budget and asked them to create whatever comes in to their head when they listen to songs from the band’s forthcoming album. The idea is to abandon the usual approval process from Sigur Rós, and allow film makers utmost creative freedom. The band has stated: “We never meant our music to come with a pre-programmed emotional response. We don’t want to tell anyone how to feel and what to take from it. With the films, we have literally no idea what the directors are going to come back with. None of them know what the others are doing, so hopefully it could be interesting”.

On 21 May, Sigur Rós released a video for the track “Ég Anda”, which is filmed by Ragnar Kjartansson. It is the first video from the Valtari mystery film experiment. The video shows how we should proceed if someone starts to choke.

On 6 June, Sigur Rós released a video for the track “Varúð”, which is filmed by Inga Birgisdóttir, who is the Valtari cover designer and the director of Ekki Múkk music video. It’s the second video from the Valtari mystery film experiment.  The video for  “Fjögur píanó” has sparked great controversy for having a brief bit of male genitalia – that of Shia Labeouf – especially as concerns Youtube’s nudity policies. I for one will never understand why America is so afraid of penis, but I digress… anyway the video is actually incredible.

Check out their website: Sigur Rós.  Fun fact, I was looking at their website while posting this and turns out they are in the States in July! Just bought tickets! Weekend in Philidelphia – here I come! ^___^ So excited!!!



Eric Saade

Eric Saade is a Swedish artist who I first saw last year when he was representing Sweden in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. His entry, “Popular”, was one of my favourite entries. I thought for sure he was going to win, and after half of the countries had awarded their points, Saade was at the top. But finally he ended the competition in 3rd place. But after this year’s Eurovision I decided to find some music from recent contestants I’d enjoyed and I was stumbled upon some Eric Saade magic!

Saade started off in 2007 in Swedish boyband What’s Up! (who I must soon look into to fuel my guilty pleasure of boy band pop!) He left the group in 2009 to pursue his solo career. That summer, Saade hosted the Swedish music competition My Camp Rock, a camp inspirated by the Disney Channel movie Camp Rock. He also hosted the nationwide contest Julia’s Shooting Stars. In January 2010, Saade won one Scandipop Award in the category Brightest New Hope for 2010, marking his breakthrough in the Swedish pop world.

In March 2010, Saade was nominated for one Marcel Bezençon Award (Melodifestivalen) in the category Press Award for “Manboy”. He also won one in the category Artistic Award for the same song. Saade released his first solo album Masquerade on May 19th, 2011, which reached #2 in Sweden and reached Gold status there. After the album’s release, Saade went on his first tour called Masquerade Tour the summer of 2010 with 24 concerts in Sweden. In January 2011, Saade was nominated for six Scandipop Awards in the categories Best Single from a New Artist for “It’s Gonna Rain” and “Manboy”, Best Male Single for the same songs, Best Male Album for Masquerade and Best New Artist. He also won two awards in the categories Best Album from a New Artist for Masquerade and Best Male!

In May 2011, Saade was nominated for two Marcel Bezençon Awards in the categories Artistic Award and Press Award for “Popular”. Also in May 2011, it was announced that Saade would release two albums in 2011 called Saade Vol. 1 and Saade Vol. 2 in Sweden. The first one was released on June 29th, 2011 in Sweden and Norway. The album reached #1 in Sweden, sold over 50.000 copies and reached Platinum status in July 2011 there. It also reached #16 in Finland. This year Saade is nominated for six Scandipop Awards in the categories Best Male, Readers Favourite of 2011, Best Male Album for Saade Vol. 1 and Saade Vol. 2, Best Male Single for “Popular” and Best Remix for “Popular (SoundFactory Remix)”. Saade is also nominated for one Grammi in the category Best Song for “Popular”. From March-April 2012, Saade was on his third Swedish tour, called Pop Explosion Concert 2012 with 15 concerts.

I find Saade’s music absolutely fun Europop! A lot of Youtube videos have comments comparing his to Justin Bieber, and though I’m a Be-lieber myself, I hate the comparison, and I think Eric Saade is much better. You can see his influence from 90s boybands and especially Michael Jackson in his videos, particularly his dancing. His videos are definitely fun to watch. I haven’t listened to his three albums in their entirety but from what I’ve seen and watched I know Eric Saade is magic. “Popular” is definitely one of the best!

Check out his site: Eric Saade