Dear Mr Cluness
Do you have any comments before my lawyer proceeds?
Mr. X Butthurtz
Man, imagine if i said that i REALLY didn’t like it!
Yes, 2012 is finally dead and over, and (As I also said this time last year), I’m glad that it’s past us. 2011 was hard but 2012 was truly a slog. Death, depression, writers block (again), threats of legal action, sunburn, psychotic felines in the area. fights, illness, busted faces, bruised egos, and a lack of decent tea. Amazingly, I almost walked from all of this stuff, twice!
And what for? To be honest I’m not sure myself. Frankly, a lot of the time Iceland doesn’t really deserve any decent music writing (If they did get it, they’d only just ignore it, totally miss the point, etc). But you still carry on, plugging away, being a boring nerd (I know this because my friend Katharina told me yesterday, “You are such a fucking nerd!”). But as long as i still get a thrill out of seeing bands smash up their shit at the end of a gig, or hearing a record that actually made feel something strange and scary inside, then there is still a reason to actually care, to give a damn, to still throw everything into it.
This post will be too big for doing a review of teh entire WERLD, so instead I’ll link to other reviews here, here, here, here, here , here, & here. I state that I agree with 78% of what was said on these posts (Nothing truly ground breaking, the need for more bangers, the rise of the new boring/normal in indie, shithole politics, the decline of the “Album” and the rise of the proper EPs). But fuck you guys, l LOVED Blawan and Boddika’s output this year!
So as for Iceland? well, let’s keep this simple and to the point. Pros and minuses, etc….
Live Music: There were some brilliant, intense live music moments in 2012 that I was lucky enough to see. Such highlights included seeing underground metal/noise from the likes of MASS, Hylur and Norn at Hemmi & Valdi of all places. Saturday at the Eistnaflug festival (Muck were brilliant, as they were all year). Ben Frost (hearing from outside, it was packed) trying to destroy Kaffibarinn with his soundwaves. Slayer, Melvins and more at the ATP I’ll be your mirror in London. Seeing Reykjavik!, Nova heart, and Legend at Airwaves. Seeing some great music at Harpa with the inaugural Tectonics music festival, AMFJ at Undiraldan, and Dirty Beaches. Also worth a mentions is Beatmakin Troopa’s new live set up, which was really good at his album release gig at Cafe Rosenborg. But out of all of these, the truly defining live moment of 2013 was seeing I Adapt in a one-off gig at Eistnaflug. I still get tingles when i think back on it. whooooo….
Taktabrot: 2012 saw Breakbeat.is getting it together in crowd-sourcing a lovely book of their poster/club night history. Then on top of making the book, they went on further in getting the mighty Blawan to come up to Iceland and play. And he played BANGERS all night. Amazed to hear some of the “old guard,” who hadn’t heard him before being a little confused as they thought he was Dubstep. But i didn’t care. I was raving through it all for hours and was bloody knackered at the end of it. Been a while since I actually got a true buzz from that.
METAL!!!!: Some really good things going on in the metal scene this year. Bands were getting signed up by non Icelandic labels, while Celestine blasted our spines again with their latest album. Beneath was almost as punishing with ‘Enslaved By Fear,’ and it was really wonderful seeing Angist finding their sound and blossoming blackly live. I want big things from them this year. Also, realising Sólstafir’s ‘Svartir Sandir’ as the new standard in driving music while on holiday travelling through the West Fjörds, Fuck, I was almost prepared to give the likes of Skámöld and Dimma an easier time in 2012. OK, I did say almost.
The People IRL: 2013 was spent using the internet in weird and wonderful ways to build up proper human based networks that naturally ended up spilling over Into Real Life. For example, 2012 was when i met the imperious duo of Joseph “The Outer Church” Stannard, and Jonny “Exotic Pylon” Mugwump for the first time. And both were lovely gents to a fault. 2013 will be spent trying to hook up with them again in some fashion. Then there was the likes of meeting/interviewing Oren Ambarchi and John Tilbury at this year’s Tectonic festival. Both were lovely, engaging, enthusiastic people – and it was rather invigorating meeting, in John, a proper old school socialist who was engaged in music, culture and politics the way he was. My father in law would have likely called him a communist or something! It was also a year where we met some lovely writers who came to Iceland to cover Airwaves for the Grapevine. As I mentioned in my Airwaves’12 review, I had initial misgivings about this, but they rose to it all by the fact that we simply asked them “Write what you want. Be honest. have a great time.” and it really showed. Also speaking to musics/producers and other fans in neo-geographical support network that allowed me to source out some really weird, exciting music, and may allow for some intriguing things for musicians in Iceland and abroad this year. On top of this were good local friends such as Rebecca, Catherine, Aðalsteinn, Ragnar, Katharina, Dabbi, Haukur, Bikir, Paul, Palli and a whole host of others that helped me stay on track and not completely lose my mind.
Surprises: There were some musical moments that actually surprised me in 2012 and while it’s still perplexing to hear me say such things from my lips, I found myself really happy to put it down on record. For example, if you had told me 12 months ago that I would be praising Hjaltalín and stating that ‘Enter 4′ was album of the year, I would have punched you in the face, then told you to fuck off. But it’s true! It soars far and away over everything else that was released this year. Also – I really loved ”Ekki Vanmeta,” the opening track to Pascal Pinon’s ‘Twosomeness.’ There, I’VE SAID IT (Can you please stop teasing me about this John?)! Finally, there was Moses Hightower showing many Icelandic rappers and R&B singers how to be funky with the Icelandic tongue.
- Harpa looking and sounding great, but pretty much sucking all the culture from the whole area, as if it were a Wal-Mart death star.
- The slow cultural hollowing out of 101, as the impacts of increased tourism began to make its presence felt with the closing of NASA and the death sentence being passed on Hjartagarðurinn and the surrounding buildings, including Faktorý. Some people have spoken out against this, but when you have Promote Iceland (Whose remit was passed as law by Parliament!) wanting 2 MILLION tourists to Iceland by 2016, then you know it’s only going to get worse.
- A lot of Ho-Hum “indie” releases that were nice, but sounded all smoothed out, flat, and had absolutely nothing spellbinding, deep or fundamentally exuberant to it. As another piece pointed out, this music doesn’t contain aesthetic progress or socially-oppositional ideologies many people used to associate with “Indie.” It’s music as comfort food plus status. And that really doesn’t spin my wheels to be frank.
- Apart from a few releases, live moments, and some really good DJ’s who definitely know their stuff, a lot of electronic music made and played in 2012 was actually very underwhelming. It just didn’t… excite me in the way that I hoped for. When I wrote 12 months ago about the Helga compilation and the creation of Möller records, I hoped that this would be the beginning of some really good shaking up across the board with some REAL energy being felt in the music (And I still think this will happen), but it kind of just felt like everything in terms of energy and aesthetic was just going round in circles. I hope 2013 gets me more excited.
- The Obsession with Icelandic media and some commentators with album places and sales of Icelandic bands abroad as a marker of a bands quality (“See? Of Monsters and Men reached number 5 in the US! Not even Björk could do that!” implying that somehow they are better than Björk).
- tthat despite being touted as a very technologically advanced nation, packed full of smartphones, iPads, and high-speed internet, Iceland is just as parochial as everyone else, using it for only for FB, 9GAG and being blowhards on the DV comments section. Take the news that Iceland bought 700 million ISK of music in 2012, but only 3% of it was digital. Although the % has been disputed (apparently it’s closer to 10-15%) this is way too low. and of course discussions about it brought out the usual self-righteous comments about vinyl Vs digital, failing to take into account that the music that Icelanders can buy in the shops is VERY limited. Even the range of music you can download illegally on deildu.net is so narrow in its scope!
- The increasing groupthink experienced in a lot of scenes here. Well it’s always been there, but it felt stronger than usual in 2012. The GV lost two music writers this year (One who had been doing it for years, the other who was starting out). The reason? They were also musicians and they felt that if they expressed an honest opinion on other bands’ albums, then this would harm their chances and their “careers.” How fucking sad is THAT? A good support network is needed for any scene, but I’ve just stopped listening to people who tell me that I should be bigging up all Icelandic music because the scene needs it/because they’re our guys/That I can’t say what I want to say, etc.
There are many, many other things that I could bring up (Such as Facebook and other social media becoming clogged with Occupy-style picture memes along the lines of “Iceland is a utopia! They did all this stuff! Why is this not being televised by the MSM? Herpa derpa derp”), but it would be unfair to get you to wallow though all of that. I’d lose the last 15 readers that i actually have for this blog!
So, onwards and upwards I say, as I hold my breather hope that 2013 will present me with some real moments that will make me go “HOOO YEAH!!”
To sign off the year – Some songs!!