Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Icelandic Indie
Release Date: June 22, 2018
OK, I’m gonna start this one off in a pretty straight forward way, if you’re looking for a metal album, move onto the next review. But if you’re open to, or looking for music in other genres, this one is worth checking out.
Imagine if you put Sigur Rós, Sufjan Stevens, and Daughter all together in one band, that’s the most apt description I can use for Árstíðir (pronounced: ours-teeth-hur). If that description doesn’t get you excited, you should probably revaluate the decisions that brought you to this point. Árstíðir have been around since 2008, shortly after they formed they gained a strong following in their home country. In the years since, Árstíðir has gained a strong international following, especially after a video of them paying an Icelandic hymn on a subway in Germany went viral. Nivalis is their Fourth album, and yet another example of the artistic mastery that Icelanders are consistently capable of tapping into.
I jumped into this album totally blind. The only thing I knew to expect was the genres listed in their promotional materials; indie folk, chamber folk and pop. There isn’t really a specific style you can peg them to; Árstíðir manages jump gracefully, and seamlessly between art rock, indie folk, and pop, with a heavy dose of classical and electronic influence all throughout. Beyond genres, the production of this album is incredibly diverse. Some segments are minimalist and slow, while others hit you with a beautiful wall of sound, and maximalist soundscapes. How masterfully they’ve manage to dance on the boundaries between all these genres and styles without becoming convoluted and confusing is beyond me.
After my lengthy introduction, it’s fairly obvious I’m a big fan of the album. I’ve been listening to this album almost straight since I heard it, in fact, I was sold on it after the first 3 songs. ‘While This Way’ is the perfect intro to the album, it encapsulates what will come in the rest of the album. Other Standouts are ‘Like Snow’, which has one of the most mesmerizingly beautiful climaxes in the album. ‘Circus’ is in my opinion, one of the strongest moments for the vocal performance. ‘Mute’ has a groove that has never failed to pull me right in. Beyond these specific tunes that I want to point out, the album is enjoyable all the way through, with every song being strong in its own right.
The vocals are easily the centrepiece of the album. All 3 members of the band sing, which is pretty impressive considering how consistent the vocals sound. There are tons of moments all throughout, including the very beginning, where you’ve got a very simplistic background, with nothing to focus on but the vocals. And then there are moments such as ‘conviction’ that sound like a Sufjan Stevens ballad. In fact, the vocals are very reminiscent of Sufjan, just listen to any tune from ‘Illinois’, and a song from this album, the influence will be immediately apparent.
Another one of my favourite elements is the drums. They do exceptional well at adding energy when needed in tunes like ‘Lover’, and ‘While This Way’. They add new level of groove to the songs, and its almost impossible not to find yourself moving to the song once the drums start kicking in.
Looking through the album credits, Árstíðir took the production on this album to the hilt. The guest musicians list is impressive, and the quality can be heard. The Violin, Viola and Cello segments that are scattered throughout of the album very much defined the music. There are moments filled with soaring, folksy melodies that unmistakably remind us that this is very much a product of Iceland. There are beautiful Cello and string segments that conjure imagery of chamber music from the renaissance. The difference between using sample strings and real ones is blaring on this album, the string section sounds absolutely amazing.
To finish this review off, all I have to say is wow. Árstíðir delivered a breathtaking piece of work. Just experimental enough, but still holding on to conventional styles so that the avant-garde influence isn’t off-putting. Mature, intimate lyrics, delivered brilliantly through all 3 members in the lineup. I really can’t find anything bad to say about this album. I was hooked from the start, and I still am after almost 2 weeks of non stop listening.
1. While This Way
3. Please Help Me
5. Like Snow
6. Þar sem enginn fer (sjálfviljugur)
11. In the Wake of You
12. Wasting Time
Total Playing time: 46:07
A Canadian instrumentalist and sound-artist with a strong interest in anything artful.