While everyone else was away at Sasquatch! or SIFFing it up, my festival activity was limited to a couple of sets at the Folklife kindieband stage, interrupted by frequent trips to the bathroom. So I spent some time this weekend online, indulging my love of all things Icelandic. Digging through the Iceland Airwaves festival lineup, I stumbled on a video by the masked hip-hop artist Gabríel. Hip hop in Iceland? With masks? There’s a story there, but this isn’t it. On that hip hop video, there was a guest vocalist named Valdimar Guđmundarsson, who really caught my ear.
All this wind up has been leading to his band, Valdimar. They aren’t on the Airwaves lineup (yet) but I think they should be.
Valdimar released their debut album, Undraland, which means ‘wonderland,’ late in 2010 to rave reviews in Reykjavík, but no one seems to have noticed outside of Iceland yet. The lyrics are in Icelandic, so I have no idea what the songs are about, but the music is a relaxed, mellow kind of pop that’s just perfect for afternoons of chilling out. Sometimes that accessibility strays a little too close to the tepid adjectives of easy listening, but then they bust out the brass to keep it interesting. The whole album sounds so familiar without sounding exactly like anyone in particular. There’s some Radiohead in there, some vintage Peter Gabriel, a little David Bazan, and maybe… is that some Paul Simon?
My favorite song of theirs is the title track, which has a little more of an edge to it.
If you want to check out the rest of the album, you can stream it for free on Gogoyoko, where you can also buy the download.