Words & photos by Bowen Staines. Make sure you check out his article about making a video with Sólstafir in the Westfjords of Iceland.
Iceland Airwaves 2014 was definitely a standout year for me; this was my ninth time attending Airwaves, and I haven’t had such a memorable festival since maybe 2009.
Without a doubt, Future Islands was the highlight of this year’s Airwaves festival. They’ve been around for a long time, but have only recently started getting the attention they deserve. Performers through and through, there is something undeniably ravenous about frontman Samuel T. Herring pacing the stage like a caged animal, looking out at the audience like a herd of limping gazelle. There’s this electric crackle in his voice that, in its harshness and mortality, projects such wisdom, as if listening to a great-grandparent tell you about their life. I wanted to believe every word he said.
I’ve known the Mammút kids for a long time; their latest album, Komdu til mín svarta systir, was, in my opinion, the best Icelandic album of 2013. Each year, their aptitude and talent as live performers continues to intensify and surpass previous years by leaps and bounds. Their sound at the Reykjavík Art Museum was also especially good this year, I thought.
I’m not sure what I can say about this band that I haven’t already said before. They’re my boys. The old stuff is good, and the new stuff is better. On Wednesday, they performed a full set of only new material for a completely packed house at Gamla Bíó. If you think you’ve heard Agent Fresco, think again. The new album is going to be very cool.
Young Karin was the newcomer to this year’s Airwaves festival. Comprised of members of Retro Stefson and Agent Fresco, Young Karin is in the process of releasing their second EP, which I’m really quite looking forward to. They’re playing Eurosonic in January, too; if you’re in the area, definitely try to catch them!
Regardless of whether Döpur (“Sadness”) your type of music or not, there’s no argueing about Krummi Björgvinsson’s well-honed skill as a live performer. Döpur is basically a mix of extreme power electronics, abstract punk, and noise.
Byrta from the Faroe Islands is a collaboration between Janus Rasmussen from the Icelandic electronic band, Bloodgroup, and Guðrið Hansdóttir, a singer/songwriter from Tórshavn. I only found out about Byrta through my roomate, who had been blasting the album in our house nearly every day for six weeks straight. “I need to learn ALL the words, so I can scream them at the top of my lungs next week”, he’d say. I was able to catch them twice, once at their off-venue show at Boston, and again the next evening at Húrra.