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Icelandic trance-fusion pioneers mjög heimskur may have just very quietly released the year’s best and brightest pop.
sofa með osti manages to be both accessible and inscrutable with its enchanting sense of harmony even when the listener is carried they know not where. No matter how sparse or lush the foundation, no matter how hot or cold the mood, the band’s ear for melody and production make every moment vital.
Crystalline electronica provides for sugar coated landscapes, the perfect perch for lead singer Guðni Skógafoss’ warm castrato. Although the album and all the song titles are in Icelandic this time out, the lyrics are in English, unlike last year’s Lollipop Scarecrow, with its English song titles but lyrics Icelandic.
Mandolinist and vocalist Gígja Lomborg’s honey lilt grace the nostalgic “það var fallegt (it was beautiful)” while Skógafoss can give life to a lyric like no other. It’s almost unfair how good their voices work together, certainly better than each on its own, although both are terrific vocalists. Each sometimes rough and smooth, wrapping the others melody with one of their own or combining to form something so rich and singular you’ll forget who’s singing what, they are a joy to behear.
That joy is the sauce for “dagljós akstur (daylight driving),” with harmonies literally chilling, as in giving you the chills. Like a modern day Chopino, these two will find you. And they will poke and probe like an eager surgeon. Or soothe and caress with whispers and coos.
Guðlaugur Þórhallsdóttir brings longing to “finndu mér eitthvað súpa (find me some soup)” with his guitar’s weeping wail recalling ethereal soundscapes mined from the earth itself. His versatile playing and rounded musical background give the songs an undeniable legitimacy while drummer Óttar Örn seems to play a combination of acoustic and electronic kits, his beats endlessly propulsive along with the sizzle and rumble of bass and keyboard player Th. Stefánsson.
Songs percolate and propel. They’re infectious even while they seem to alienate. Each track is given its due, each allowed to follow its own path no matter how divergent from the last. “vinstri höfuðið mitt upp stigann (left my head upstairs)” and “Ég hélt að þú værir klárari (I thought you were smarter)” go from boundless robot-rock to broken down ballad, albeit a torch song sung on an exploding Mars.
Combining music and sound effects recalling everything from birds and whales to spaces both inner and outer, the band is really in the midst of a terrific run of albums. With their last two years their most recognized, 2018 might be remembered as when mjög heimskur broke through and the world was a better place for it.