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The 25 Most Exciting Acts of Iceland Airwaves 2015

A festival of outstretched hands, smiling faces, and elated human bodies

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Photography by Nina Corcoran

Fighting against the icy temperatures of Reykjavík in November, Iceland Airwaves’ 16th edition produced heaps of heat during its five days of hip-hop, rock, electronic, and experimental noise music. A genre-crossing concoction of musical riches, it’s one of the most diverse festivals in history and undoubtedly one of the best. There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all festival” anymore. If you’re looking for DIY hysteria, perky pop, or something obscurer – perhaps flotation tank-ish – Iceland Airwaves offers something for everyone. From dream-pop romancers Beach House to full symphonic orchestras supporting John Grant and the towering list of Icelandic bands on the bill, the festival tailors to your every desire. Part of the festival’s appeal is how the magical atmosphere of its small host, Reykjavík, focuses on embracing the festival. Record stores, hostels, coffee shops, and window displays of clothing outlets are transformed into live music venues (every communal space is a stage), and it’s utterly astonishing to experience.

Nina Corcoran, Iceland

Iceland Airwaves inspires the kind of daydream all music lovers spend years thinking about. It’s one of the most welcoming and easy-to-get-around festivals in the world, too, and even if, like us, you weren’t planning on eating Hákarl (rotten shark) while you’re there or getting the chance to meet Björk, it will happen (because sometimes a girl’s got to call for an immediate global protest). All things considered, the magic of the festival is everlasting. Outstretched hands, smiling faces, and elated human bodies are Iceland Airwaves in a nutshell.

Takk, góða nótt, so long, and thanks for all the fish. Here are our highlights. See you same place, same time next year.

–Lior Phillips
Senior Staff Writer

Aela

Post-Punk Fury

Nina Corcoran, Aela_
There’s a penis flapping about on stage, and I have no idea whose it is. All I know is it belongs to the naked man wearing nothing but a horse head, weaving around the band like a drunken driver through traffic cones. Get past the Icelandic band’s spicy, pink body glitter and their Snow White Halloween costumes. Get past the profanity (the band’s name means “puke”) and frontman Halli Valli’s galloping grunt and what-the-fuck-did-he-just-ride-through-the-crowd-on-someone’s-shoulders visual antics. Aela are essentially pragmatists, driven by their duty to rage inside the machine they’ve created. These tricks are necessary to give their message the populist appeal it so deserves, because unlike so many hardcore bands running the gamut of spastic experimental blasts of fury, Aela’s densely textured post-punk thrives off solid, technically superb musicianship. The musical equivalent of sticking your finger into an electric plug and being thrown down a flight of stairs, they care about the intensity of the reaction and do nothing to hide their basic brutalism.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Rólegur”
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FUFANU

New Wave/Post-Punk

Fufanu by Maxime Smári
Photo by Maxime Smári

Seeing the brooding dropkick fury of Iceland’s Fufanu from the depths of a mosh pit on a Friday reduced the rest of the night to a wimpy murmur. What stands out is the sense that this rock isn’t sinister, but an encapsulating mass feeling – a feeling where there’s no allusion to period-piece punk or naivety in this musical journey. Frontman Kaktus Einarsson, the son of Iceland’s punk hero and Björk’s Sugarcubes bandmate Einar Örn, unleashes minutes of mayhem in a raucous almost off-key lament, prancing around like a wild toddler, palm slapping his chest and taunting the crowd with sassy ass-wiggling, enlivening the heat-hazy crowd. And what they have to offer is something truly exciting: a cacophony of new wave rock beats stabbing through squealing discord.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Your Collection”

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Dream Wife

Glam Pop-Punk

Nina Corcoran, Dream Wife 1

When art school restrictions get too tight, students rebel in the best ways. Dream Wife — the trio of Icelandic singer Rakel and Brighton guitarists Alice and Bella — is the beast that sprung from the educational boundaries, allowing the three to create theatrical pop that bites without hesitancy live. In the cramped quarters of an upstairs hostel living room, Dream Wife sprinted through their set with more punk tone than their glam-pop recordings suggest, fitting snugly between Le Tigre and Sleigh Bells, especially with their mannerisms factored in. Though they’ve only just begun recording their songs this year, they’re a force to keep your eyes on — especially if you’re looking for a Kathleen Hanna replacement.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Believe”

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Meat Wave

Straight-Faced Rock

Nina Corcoran, Meat Wave 2

Meat Wave’s music has Steve Albini written all over it, from the rough edges of Shellac in “No Definition” to the angst snarls of Cloud Nothings in “Cosmic Zoo” to the Jesus Lizard explosion in “Panopticon”, yet there’s enough contentedness at its core to step away from actually starting a fight. Even though it’s got the energy of garage rock, reverb of noise rock, and spirit of punk rock, Meat Wave’s music is to the point. That’s exactly what their music is: rock for rock’s sake. Live, they somehow unhinge that jaw even farther, letting their songs tumble into a rush of adrenaline. Rock — not indie rock, garage rock, or noise rock — needs a revolution, and Meat Wave is poised to be its leader.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Brother”

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Bo Ningen

Face-Melting Acid Punk

Nina Corcoran, Bo Ningen

The door to the front entrance of KEX Hostel where KEXP streamed live all week is barricaded by a burly Icelandic bouncer who gives us the “not-a-chance” face when we try and enter Bo Ningen’s 7:30 p.m. Friday set. Ushering us toward the back entrance, it’s clear why we’re coming through the rear. A typically squashed venue is now a vortex of humans bulging out the window seams. It’s fucking incredible. You can feel the searing, expunging psychedelic noise piercing through mutated low keys, a punishing bile of time mangles between lead singer Taigen’s thrashing throat-yelping. It’s crushing. Is it Noise metal? Post-punk? Acid doom? While the Japanese lanky four-piece use their waist-length, straight, black hair as capes to conjure some dark order, Taigen’s playing bass over his head, upside down, behind his back, windmilling it through a demonic queasy succession of droned-out sound. Bo Ningen arrived with a sense of purpose, pounding out an atmosphere both brutal and beautiful, crosscut with a throbbing and paranoid layer. It’s as if their name, meaning “Stick men” in Japanese (as Monchan so shyly told me during our stroll through the flea market the next day), alludes to chords they’ve struck and set alight to power the rising band’s force.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Henkan”

VÖK

Dreamy Indie Pop

Nina Corcoran, Vox
Oh VOK! The triumvirate of Icelandic indie pop arrived during Airwaves’ finale in a humble and unobtrusive style. Drawing from La Roux-like vocals and harnessing the ways in which The xx catch the light of sounds as not to be “pretty” but to crack through and create a sense of movement, as mirrored in their soaring saxophone and bilingual lyricism. VÖK, meaning “a little hole in the ice,” warmed the entire Vodafone Hall with easy-listening songs that have unexpected, plunging depths. Singer Margrét Rán and saxophonist Andri Márfirst make constant eye contact as she sings with unusually personal and graceful concerns: “your world is a self-delusion,” jolting up from its serenity by a most tense “your gifts are illusions.” Because of timing issues, the set ended suddenly, the crowd’s disapproving boos falling like guillotines.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Before”

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Operators

Synth Stirring Indie Rock

Nina Corcoran, Operators

The type of music — the type of energy — that Operators create is at its most operative when the boundary between stage and crowd disappears. When you’re inches apart from feeling the surge of Sam Brown’s insistent drums writhing beneath your feet, where Dan Boeckner’s heart-on-sleeve conviction and Devojka’s intensity arrives just a little harder than the rest. Where being caught in a claustrophobic environment like KEX Hostel with no stage, just a barricade of speakers. Few contemporary indie bands have sounded like they’re having as much fun as Operators. It’s built like an everlasting motion machine as the band resolve to amplify and exaggerate itself. Their EP of energetic pop-tronica released last year is put on ice today, with the band focused on delivering brand-new tracks from their forthcoming March album — and it’s a heaving bulk of micro-melodies bursting at the seams with philosophies and feeling. Now they’re twisting guitar strings together in keening knots of rock & roll songs like opener “Elliptical”. “This is my third Airwaves with three different bands,” Boeckner said just before plunging into “Mission Creep” and its smoother pulsating beat. Singing as if it were his only chance to get the feelings out, Boeckner darts from side to side, chest-thumping to summon a chant-like roar from the ecstatic crowd giving way to “Remote Kontrol”, which, as the title would suggest, is a song that begs to be turned on again and again.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Ancient”

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Beach House

Dream Pop

Nina Corcoran, Beach House

Beach House has changed. They’ve located their guts and aren’t afraid to smack the crowd with candid banter. “Victoria!” shrieks an overly thrilled Icelander. “WHAT!” lead singer Legrand yells back. “I can only see half the room, and the second half is a bunch of tiny little heads. Are you okay?” Though concealed in darkness, even the audience’s energy had noticeably shifted: after the cacophony of body-throwing electro unfurled by Kiasmos, people stopped diving into the air and started swaying between the shadows instead – a welcome cool down deflated from ballooned expectations about the band. Legrand punctures the audience again: “Girls I don’t care who the fuck you’re standing next to, move your fucking body, if he touches you, push them away.” It was one of the simplest acts of the week; her voice appealingly soft and soothing, holding its own among the hurdling sonorous breadths of Depression Cherry’s “Sparks” and “Levitation”. Floating into a deeply anxious moment during “Myth”, Legrand appropriately asks, “What comes after this momentary bliss?” It’s a perfect question for a band that seems reluctant to bring itself to the end, a sunset lingering across a florescent sky.

Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Myth”

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Sin Fang

Nature-like Indie Rock

Nina Corcoran, Sin Fang

If you aren’t paying attention to liner notes, it’s easy to miss Sin Fang’s role in Icelandic music. The indie rock artist, whose real name is Sindri Már Sigfússon, plays in a myriad of other local acts, but his solo routine has gained him the most attention. With demo-era Arcade Fire harmonies and Animal Collective percussive glitter, he finds charm in the otherwise simplistic songwriting, and, like his neighbors múm, he illuminates the natural magic of Iceland. Expect no ugly trolls, though. Sin Fang turns the live stage into a megaphone for beauty, looping up a storm of guitar riffs and soft horns where he eventually recalls the early days of 2000s indie pop when we lived a life free of YouTube and Tumblr. Oh, to relive those days.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Young Boys”

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Agent Fresco

Alternative Rock

Nina Corcoran, Agent Fresco

One of Iceland’s most beloved rock band’s, Agent Fresco stood beneath Rubik’s Cube stage lights, while gifted frontman Arnór Dan Arnarson offered a dramatic angst-riddled set driving their alternative-rock pulse. There’s boldness to Agent Fresco – the type that’s determined, defiant, and hyperactive, the kind of “let’s break the speakers” quality pushing the listener. For long stretches, drummer Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson, bassist Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson, and guitarist Þórarinn Guðnason (who are all in multiple bands) kept the same energy, as though sustaining their performance was critical to the frontman’s delivery. At one point, Arnór announced he was going to sing a song he wrote about the father he lost to cancer, and then, jumping from stage catching the steel banisters beneath his feet, flying like a man sure his fans would hold him tight – they did. Though the aching darker tones of its subject matter were difficult to ignore, their full potential and appeal were realised. It all felt like being wedged inside an energy drink.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Dark Water”

Weaves

Art Rock

Nina Corcoran, Weaves 2

Weaves are both the Playdough and the sculptor. The Toronto quartet bring an absurd variation of influences into their music — punk, funk, R&B — and set them on fire live, pushing each instrument’s tone with their thumbs until it shifts into yet another shape. Be it the warbling noise of “Buttercup” or the stuttering burps of “Hulahoop”, they work together as a unit, taking turns with their flourishes instead of granting a single member the decided spotlight. As the crunchy melodies of “Take a Dip” and “Motorcycle” hammered away, the crowd went wild, all while singer Jasmyn Burke rolled on the floor, kicking her heels in the air like the sweaty venue was her personal sleepover and their feverish songs were her personal, juicy secrets.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Motorcycle”

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John Grant & Iceland Symphony Orchestra

Folk Rock

Nina Corcoran, John Grant 1
It began with no more than a purr. A giddy hiss of strings that numbs the skin, the sort of sound that forces you into an utter state of absorption. You start wondering about life between the pensive moments sewn together by instrumentals. The hammering drum motif hits while up in the stalls fans play air piano and lace hand shapes through the stage lights. At such point, the evening’s signifiers – it’s his first of two sold-out shows at Reykjavík’s largest hall, Harpa Eldborg, with Iceland Symphony Orchestra – seem fair warning for what verges on a seated musical epiphany. “I want to introduce everyone, but first I need to play music,” said John Grant, the American-born-Reykjavík-transplant who switches between fluent Icelandic and English. The orchestra’s supersized interpretation of songs like “Pale Green Ghost” and the night’s swelling “GMF” never felt foreign. “I’m the greatest mother-fucker you’re ever gonna meet,” sees Grant filtering through textures both dark and light. The occasional bursts of applause or the irritating chip packet crunching next to me are the only reminders that this wasn’t a studio recording – easy to forget considering how precise the arrangements were. The ambling licks of sharply observed short stories set to orchestral music, like “Global Warming”, stayed hypnotically heated. Grant is truly loved, sitting for entire songs just staring at the orchestra, back faced toward the crowd in acute awe of his new musical family.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “GFM”

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Júníus Meyvant

Folk Pop

Nina Corcoran, Junius Meyvant
Júníus Meyvant, Iceland’s guitar savant, creates a rippling suite of Patrick Watson storytelling, recalling the John Mayer era of playing chess with a “salt and pepper shaker” all bundled up in artfully shaped Ben Howard guitar picking … and oh god did this man have the time of his life on stage. The singer (real name Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson) stood radiating warmth, adding candid snark to the crowd’s bellowing screams of joy. “You had enough?” he asks in a thick Icelandic mumble. “Well, we’re going to play 38 more songs just for you then!” His absolutely charming performance proves that, au contraire, he knows how to bring the pop, albeit pop with ginger hair and lanky limbs. The horror of the pining singer-songwriter is a potent one, but Júníus shows how it can be done imaginatively, and such reeling magic sounds wonderful done via a velvety soulful acoustic set.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Color Decay”

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Ylja

Dream Folk

Nina Corcoran, Flja

Just as the cold temperatures started to make our bones scream curses of rude rage to the sky, we ran toward downtown Reykjavík’s Fríkirkjan church venue hoping to catch the ever-brilliant William Tyler’s set. Our little legs carried us faster than expected giving ample time to catch once-duo, now 5-piece Icelandic Ylja. Like walking into Narnia, the timing felt marginally biblical, with original members Gígja Skjaldardóttir, and BjarteySveinsdóttir luring us in by being impressive and a little heartbreaking all at once. There, standing at the end of the aisle, the singers crooned at the drums whilst the band sparked to life around the songs. The crowd response to “Eyvindur Fjalla”, a song based on a folk story about an outlaw Neanderthal, was rhapsodic, a fitting grace note to a performance that sees them gathering more than one ecstatic new convert.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Commotion”

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William Tyler

Instrumental Guitar

Nina Corcoran, William Tyler 1
For such a petite man, William Tyler contains both a soul and talent fit for a full band, if not three. The Nashville guitarist and composer took over the quiet halls of an Icelandic church for 40 minutes, silencing the room with immaculately layered songs “A Portrait of Sarah” (his only love song and his only dance song, conveniently) and “Cadillac Desert” as his long fingernails danced across the strings, even as one onlooker accidentally toppled over a drum stand. After Tyler closed with two new electric guitar songs, one of which saw him draw a handheld plastic fan to its strings, the people-stuffed pews rose for a standing ovation — a fair accomplishment given he broke away from his touring days with Lambchop and Silver Jews to focus on a genuinely refreshing solo career.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “A Portrait of Sarah”

Halleluwah

’80s Dream Pop

Nina Corcoran, Halleluwah

Armed with double drum kits, synth, and an ear for sampling, electro indie pop duo Halleluwah create airy, uplifting sounds that leave you refreshed. Take producer Sölvi Blöndal’s work. He crafts a landscape ripe for miniature fireworks and bedroom dance moves during sunrise. However, Halleluwah’s real sound pops from singer and visual artist Raketa Mjöll’s vocals. The light, hypnotic, spirited tonal quality resembles early Kate Bush, leaping through “Blue Velvet” with carefree joy almost mirror-like to that of Bush’s “Babooshka”. Onstage, she carries the same energy. Mjöll paraded around, throwing her head back and sticking her arms out like a child, an embodiment of Bush’s youthful creativity while still channeling her own Icelandic flair, leaving the audience frowning only because their ears wanted more.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Blue Velvet”

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Hundred Waters

Experimental Electro-Pop

Nina Corcoran, Hundred Waters 1

Live, Hundred Waters sound like a deep dive into a nearby lake on a skin-melting hot day. There are build-ups and crushing drops, but they’re always shuffled in ways that throw the viewer right off balance. “You’re making me mess up,” giggles singer Nicole Miglis after the crowd grapple with their own deafening applause post a rendition of the swelling “Show Me Love” from 2014’s The Moon Rang Like a Bell. Like a whispered lovelorn conversation in the night, the band spills secrets above gripping electronic arrangements — dense but illuminated – and trapdoors start to open. There’s this formal fragility at the heart of their sound, where Tray Tryon’s bass liquefies into congealed delay. Miglis’ displays the sort of platitude you’d expect from a veteran front woman, with a wistful aching falsetto so focused that the band doesn’t seem like they’d be blown away by a strong breeze; their impressive set can sail along waters unbound and free.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Show Me Love”

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₩€$€₦

Electronic Dream Pop

Nina Corcoran, Wesen

This is electronic pop undressed to its barest bones and rebuilt with a human heart, expressed not by meticulous vocals or strong lyrics, but by a knack for sonic curiosity, for oddly textured beats and high-energy dreamy falsettos. Duo Loji Höskuldsson and Júlía Hermannsdóttir come across a lot better live than on recordings, with both getting a chance to sing and bear a particular sense of camaraderie – like two friends equally eager to tell you about their day. While modest slow synth washes in with wooziness drifting close to lethargy, their music is subtly tethered to special hooks that can only go one way – up.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “The Low Road”

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Kiasmos

Experimental Ambient Electro

Nina Corcoran, Kiasmos

Kiasmos is a supreme collision of musicianship. As if the wires running behind the walls of the Harpa Silfurberg venue picked up a broadcast from around the cosmos and the duo tuned into the channel. Liquid grumbles gurgled into bent shapes of seismic rhythms. It’s the brainchild of Iceland’s very own BAFTA-winning composer, Ólafur Arnalds, and Faroe Islands’ Janus Rasmussen from Bloodgroup (who we saw hours after their set body-vaulting to various heights during Sophie). Within seconds, the duo’s signature temperament is immediate and profound, with Arnalds stepping out from behind his machinery during “Burnt” toward the crowd, mesmerized by festivalgoers’ hands reaching out through the techno roots. Like a dream, the songs stretch beyond temporal means — with a crispy coating of ambient blend tickling the invisible sound waves above the crowd’s delirious “whoohooings” of pure elation. They perform with a self-confidence and precision that eluded other Icelandic electronic acts that day.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Bent”

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Hot Chip

Alternative Dance

Nina Corcoran, Hot Chip 2

I can’t feel my face. Literally. It’s hot, it’s numb, and it’s tingling. I can’t see. The air’s gone out of my lungs. It’s an indoor fog swamp. Swards of LED lights beam across the corners of the Vodafone Hall. The bass drops. What is this band doing? Strobe-lit figures flash past then vanish. The color is pomegranate red. “Huarache Lights”. That rave beat. The floor-wobbling synth crackles underneath me. Someone told Hot Chip to shut up and play the hits, and that’s what they’re doing. It’s a Hot Chip history hour! “Over and Over”, “Ready for the Floor”, “Hold On”, we’re holding on threaded through this blasting elastic reverb. Drummer Sarah Jones with a million arms. Then three outfit changes from frontman Alexis Taylor: White coat and pants, Fear and Loathing sunglasses, Hawaiian button-up shirt. Gnashing dance moves choreographed meticulously reveal the band’s obvious euphoria from watching us suctioned into their world, kinking and curling our bodies for what felt like an eternity, and yet in a blink it was over. The crowd panting for air, stunned, hot, numb and tingling.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: Bruce Springsteen and LCD Soundsystem cover “Dancing in the Dark/All My Friends”

Sophie

Bubblegum Electronica

Nina Corcoran, Sophie

To the general public, PC Music is less of a label than it is a hyper-fascinating trend. The high-strung, glitchy, saccharine electronic music recalls the prepubescent joy of K-pop and the short-circuiting sounds of ’90s videogames. Naturally, it draws a predominantly male fanbase, but Iceland had another idea in mind. When the so-called ringleader of it all, Sophie, took over the NASA stage, a line swarmed down the street. The man responsible for “Bipp” and “Lemonade” was finally here, and everyone — really, everyone — wanted in. Several bands (many of whom are listed here) sprinted inside the venue, leaping in the air, excited to see the musician. Once he geared up, tapping into “Hard” and “MSMSMSM”, everybody in the room was moving, egging on his absurd beats while he built a DJ set, surprisingly smoothly, fit to close out the second-to-last night. 

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Lemonade”

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Gangly

Liquified Dream Electronica

Gangly

Fuckit, I swore I’d never make such comparisons if/when heading to Iceland, but Gangly’s serene, slow-motion melodies bind the power of a particular mask-wearing Icelandic Queen with that otherworldly post-rock band who sing in an imaginary language. The trio of Sin Fang’s Sindri, Samaris’ Jófríður and Oyama’s Úlfur hang a vulnerable lover’s plea over euphoric and strangely uplifting electronic rewiring of all and every auditory emotion. Its sound, hypnotic and liquid, came flooding into Harpa Kaldalón, which, according to my chat with Úlfur, is one of the band’s favorite venues partly due to its seated hall. Gangly demand that you think of massive things – the sky, the universe, life – while they howl climaxing in a booming haze of pounding keys. This time the crowd were treated to pre-recorded material with working titles like “Drowning” and “Holy Grounds”; it was gratifying to hear them using this opportunity to take us beyond the human stratosphere.

–Lior Phillips

Essential Track: “Fuck With Someone Else”

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Battles

Experimental Rock

Battles // Photo by Nina Corcoran

On his tiny, hand-scrawled setlist, drummer John Stanier marked the exact time signature each song is in (“Atlas” is 135, “Futura” is 105, and so on). Yet for all those technical specifics and equations, don’t call them math rock. They prefer experimental tags. As the massive crowd gathered at Battles out of curiosity quickly realized, the trio set themselves up for stressful variations that lack the specificities their music suggests. Technical errors delayed “Atlas” and the like, but “Dot Com” flew out with ease. By the time they launched into lead single “The Yabba” off this year’s La Di Da Di, the crowd left a communal jaw on the floor, baffled by how three men could create such a layered sound — though their sweat-stained shirts implied it’s certainly no easy feat.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “The Yabba”

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Sleaford Mods

British Spoken Word

Nina Corcoran, Sleaford Mods

English duo Sleaford Mods are hit or miss. Their spitting spoken word and gritty basslines land them square in the middle of The Fall and The Streets, warranting a slew of listeners who eyeroll at the similarities or embrace it with zombie-like head bobbing. When the blue-collar men step onstage, however, their music takes on an urgency impossible to ignore. A vein pops out of Jason Williamson’s throat as he swears incessantly, calling out Britpop and British politics in the same breath in “Jolly Fucker” and “Tarantula Deadly Cargo”, playing up their hilarious, biting wordplay. Best of all, producer Andrew Fearn wastes no time admiring his own work. One hand presses play on the laptop, the other opens a can of Gull, and he wags his head side to side, letting the dirty bass of his preparatory work pan out on beat, never once pretending to mix the beats live. Instead, he soaks in the glory of his own work; it’s best you do the same as well.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Tied Up In Nottz”

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Emmsjé Gauti

Icelandic Rap

Nina Corcoran, EmmsjÇ Gauti

Icelandic rap has been going strong for over 20 years. Who knew? As their style shifted from Graffiti to Breakdance, so did their scene, rich with rising acts, until the emotion and passion was captured in one fell swoop by Emmsjé Gauti. After sharpening his words for the last 13 years, Gauti dropped his debut solo LP in 2010 and hit the ground running. Onstage, his feet never stopped moving. Gauti owns the stage like a seasoned veteran, utilizing his live band to bring the same levels of energy and infectiousness as a Chance the Rapper show, minus the vaguely religious themes. Now we just need a translation of his lyrics.

–Nina Corcoran

Essential Track: “Strákarnir”

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