The end of the year is almost upon us, and so comes the annual look back at what has stood out over the last twelve months. It certainly has been another great year for Nordic creativity!
My list of highlights will feature magical musical moments from this year – but I could easily have expanded this to also include design and exhibitions that I was particular happy to have discovered in 2014 (like Swedish beer or a Danish pop-up shop).
Not wishing to rank my favourites in any particular order, here are five tracks that sum up five different favourite musical happenings (don’t let the numbering of 1 to 5 fool you, as really these are just alphabetical!).
My top five last December, listed a Dane followed by a smattering of Swedes who contributed to my stand-out moments of 2013 (see here). This time around it is a Norwegian group followed by a cluster of Icelandic bands that get into the 2014 list, which constitutes my: best gig, stand-out video, most-anticipated band discovery, favourite track, and most-played album, in that order. Read on to discover more!
1. Atlanter (NO) – at Nordic Delight Norwegian Night (best gig)
(see our April luistertip here)
I pretty much knew that the Atlanter live-show was going to be a good one as soon as I saw the showcase video for the track ‘Pike’. This spring, when I got to witness it for myself, I certainly was not disappointed. The Oslo four-piece played at the Nordic Delight Norwegian night back in April in Utrecht (see our NV report here) and it is fair to say I was pretty much blown away. As I mentioned in the luistertip that was published before I got to see the Norwegianites play live (see here), the band members were on a mission to cast their spell worldwide – and that night in Utrecht, full of the joys of spring, I certainly fell under the influence.
2. Árstíðir (IS) – You Again (stand-out video)
(see our October luistertip here)
A video filmed on an Icelandic glacier – this is the setting for the music video that stands out most in my mind from this past year. OK, so it might not be so unexpected that a film shot on such an impressive natural wonder as a glacier would end up as one-to-remember, but this video for Árstíðir’s track ‘You Again’ is actually so much more than that. It is literally a work of art, on so many levels – first and foremost, due to the collaboration between the band and visual artist Kitty Von-Sometime, but also the intricate designs and crafstmanship that that are featured, by Fiona Cribben (costume creator), Karolina Daria Flora (heart shaper), Benas Staskauskas (choker maker) and Ottó Magnússon (ice sculptor). The making-of film is also memorable (linked from our luistertip, here). (Árstíðir will perform at Eurosonic Nooderslag in January)
3. Fufanu (IS) – Circus Life (most-anticipated band discovery)
I haven’t got to see Fufanu play live yet, which is most probably why they have made it into this list as my most-anticipated band of this year. I first discovered them sometime in the autumn… can’t remember where or how now, but my first contact with the three-Reykjavik lads was when I played the Icelandic band on a radio show in October (where I give monthly Nordic music tips, you can listen here). Only having formed this year, the band has impressed a lot of people in a short period of time. Recently signed to One Little Indian records (the UK-label of Samaris and Ásgeir), the band has literally only played two shows outside of Iceland – one of them being supporting Damon Albarn at the Royal Albert Hall of all places. Another Nordic Vibes writer who did see the band play recently at Iceland Airwaves, also seemed to be impressed (see his report here). I’m happy to say, my wait to see them play will soon be over because they will be in Utrecht on 17 January at the Nordic Delight Icelandic night! (+ before that, Fufanu will perform at Eurosonic Nooderslag)
4. Júníus Meyvant (IS) – Color Decay (favourite track)
(see our July luistertip here)
My favourite track of this year comes from Iceland’s Júníus Meyvant, which I first featured on this site back in the summertime (see here). He was playing Iceland Airwaves this year and luckily I got to see him play – even though I didn’t have a ticket for the festival (because it sold out too quickly!). The off-venue (free) gigs during the day in Reykjavik can be anywhere, from a clothes shop to a laundromat, and when I went to an early morning show of his, I didn’t have any idea what to expect or where I was headed. Turns out it was in an old people’s home and it was to be one of my favourite shows of the festival. During Júníus Meyvan’ set, a troupe of pre-school kids walked in, hand-in-hand, and wandered right up to the front and sat down in front of him. Perfectly entertaining the audience of old and young, I literally had a tear in my eye when he starting singing my favourite track, ‘Color Decay’. (Júníus Meyvant will perform at Eurosonic Nooderslag in January)
5. Low Roar (IS) – o (most-played album)
(see our June luistertip here)
And last but not least is Low Roar. The album 0 successfully reached its goal in the Pledgemusic campaign back in June (maybe we contributed to in some way with our luistertip article, who knows), which was lucky for me, as ever since then it has literally not been off my ‘playlist’. This video was released in October for the track ‘Dreamer’ and it certainly seems to sum up my earlier description of the album, evoking ‘the essence of pure beauty of an infused Icelandic with a sense of bewilderment of life gone by’. The band will play Eurosonic Nooderslag in January, followed by a gigs at Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam on 16 January (with Soley) and in Ekko, Utrecht on 17 January at the Nordic Delight night.