To complete our Sounds of Scandinavia series, we delved into the Icelandic and Finnish music scenes to bring you the best music acts coming out of both countries.
In this last and final installment of our Sounds of Scandinavia feature, we’ve highlighted the talents that are coming out of Iceland and Finland – having already covered Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The two countries aren’t officially part of Scandinavia but we felt these great emerging acts are worth paying tribute to. Home to musical masterminds Björk and Sigur Rós, the current Icelandic and Finnish music scene covers a broad spectrum of genres – from electronic-folk singer Asgeir to indie-dance outfit FM Belfast and psychedelic dream-pop artist Jakko Eino Kalevi, these musicians beg to be discovered.
Bringing the two Nordic countries together for this feature, the list includes 10 artists from each country, beginning with 10 entries from Iceland followed by 10 entries from Finland.
22-year-old singer-songwriter Asgeir has been creating upbeat, modern folk since 2012. That year he won four of the six Icelandic Music Awards he was nominated for and his album In The Silence has since become Iceland’s biggest and fastest ever selling album – beating Björk and Sigur Rós to the accolade. What makes his sound so alluring is his ability to create electronic-tinged folk melodies and combine them with sparkling harmonies and soaring vocals. After garnering a string of international successes, John Grant translated the entirety of his album into English. The album’s original lyrics were written by his 74-year-old poet father, Einar Georg Einarsson.
Electro-pop outfit FM Belfast is one of Iceland’s most valuable musical treasures. What makes the band so loveable is their stitched-together, makeshift sounds and videos. The band has toured extensively and its members include Lóa Hlín Hjálmtýsdóttir, Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson, Árni Vilhjálmsson and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason. Generally, there’s three to eight members on stage, depending on availability. They made their album debut in 2008 with How To Make Friends and have since released three followups to commercial and critical success.
Just Another Snake Cult
Formed by multi-instrumentalist Pórir Bogason and his cousin Helga, Reykjavik-based Just Another Snake Cult may reference a number of notable musicians but they’ve created a unique psychedelic sound of their own. Working with a number of collaborators and guests, rare and peculiar sounds are balanced with broad vocal scopes. Their EP Cupid Makes A Fool Of Me is an excellent depiction of their eclectic talents and this video is a weird wizardy affair.
Here’s their SoundCloud.
This Icelandic four-piece is bringing back rock ‘n’ roll. Combining an inventive mixture of indie-pop, blues and rock ‘n’ roll, the four lads of Kaleo might be young in age but their sound is ripe with talent and maturity. In their home country, they’ve garnered major airplay, performed at the prestigious Icelandic Airwaves Music Festival and been nominated for several Icelandic music awards including Best Newcomer at the Icelandic Listeners Awards. The track “Sugar On Me” is a great place to start; after that, familiarize yourself with their debut album Kaleo.
Singer-songwriter Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir has been making music under her alter-ego Lay Low since 2006. Born in London to a Sri Lankan father and an Icelandic mother, she’s been playing all manner of instruments since she can remember. Her debut album, Please Don’t Hate Me, went gold two months after it was released and subsequently won her two prestigious Icelandic Music Awards – for Best Singer and Best Album Cover. Sung entirely in English, her 2014 album Talking About The Weather was mixed by producer and co-founder of Communion Ian Grimble – known for his work with Mumford & Sons, Travis, Beth Orton and Daughter. The video for “Our Conversations” is a brilliant visual backdrop to the fluttery, beautifully timed pop track.
Further tracks can be found on her SoundCloud.
In 2004, five teenagers who perform under the name Mammút won Iceland’s annual Battle of the Bands. It was to be the springboard for the five-piece. They’ve released three albums since and are signed to Bad Taste records – founded by The Sugarcubes and former label home to Björk and Sigur Rós. Track “Salt” is a bold and brilliant amalgamation of the members’ talents: the sharp guitar strumming by Arnar Pétursson, Ása Dýradóttir’s deep growling bass and Kata Mogensen’s huge vocals.
Check their Facebook page for more.
As the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Hörður Már Bjarnason, M-Band combines nu-electronica with tender vocals to create an intricately distinct soundscape. Under his moniker, the classically trained pianist has released his exciting debut album “Haust” via Raftonar Records, which caters for an intensely atmospheric and dreamy affair.
Consisting of seven musicians, the sound of Retro Stefson is as eclectic as its members. Combining sounds from across a number of continents and singing in Portuguese, English, French and Icelandic, the band formed in middle school and is continuously hailed as one of Iceland’s tightest and most colorful acts. They’ve released three full-length albums via Kimi Records and Vertigo-Berlin.
Consisting of three students from Reykjavik, Samaris impress with their rare combination of clarinet, electronic and ethereal, haunting vocals. Since their inception they’ve released a series of EPs, one of which features the track “goda tungl” via One Little Indian – one of Finland’s most reputable labels. Their self-titled album was released in 2013 and can be heard via their SoundCloud. There’s a pulsating, progressive spirit that runs through the gorgeous gliding textures of their sound. Taking their lyrics from 19th-century Icelandic poetry, the dramatic, downbeat electro trio has performed at Iceland Airways festival and won a number of notable Icelandic music awards.
Sin Fang is the solo project of singer Sindri Már Sigfússon. Influenced by Nick Drake and Elliot Smith, Sin Fang draws similarities with the music of Sufjan Stevens and Deerhoof. He’s the founder of indie-pop band Seabear; as a solo artist he’s released a handful of full lengths and EPs that bear testimony to his talents in acoustic indie-folk. Sin Fang’s (formerly Sin Fang Bous) sound is lush and layered, brimming full with expressive beats and sweeping vocals. His acclaimed album “Flowers” received the remixing prowess of none other than Sigur Rós’ Jónsi. The track “Young Boys” is the perfect introduction to the singer; this is Jónsi’s remix.
Check out his official website to familiarize yourself with his melodic soundscapes.
Deogracias Masomi aka Gracias is a Congolese-Finnish rapper based in Helsinki who combines UK-inspired electronic music with U.S. hip hop. Formerly known as Luminate, he released an unofficial debut mixtape in 2007; then, following a recording hiatus, he released his “Gracias EP” under his new moniker. Track “Mon€y” made positive rounds on the Internet and rightly so – it’s a solid debut effort. The young artist has also proven he’s got a talent for creating brilliant visuals; the video for “Repent” is a vibrant and alluring affair. Signed to Cocoa Music, of which he’s a partial owner, the rapper is strongly linked to fellow Finnish rapper Noah Kin, also on our list.
Familiarize yourself with his SoundCloud.
Helsinki-based band Husky Rescue’s 2013 album The Long Lost Friend presents a brand new lineup, new sound and new album. When vocalist Reeta-Leena Vestman left the group in 2011, band founder Marko Nyberg gave both lineup and sound a revamp. It was a good move – the mellow electronica, catchy hooks and breezy vocals prove to be a refreshing take on electro-pop.
Stream the album via their SoundCloud.
Jaakko Eino Kalevi
29-year-old Jaakko Eino Kalevi is a part-time Finnish tram driver-turned-musician. His psychedelic pop-funk is full of richly aural textures and bliss-inducing vocals. In 2013, he became the first Nordic signing to Domino imprint Weird World. It’s a perfect match, the singers world is equally weird and wonderful; it’s colorful, eclectic and events take shape to the beat of their own drum – or to the sounds of Kalevi’s four-track EP Dreamzone. He’s stated that he named the EP Dreamzone because it’s “a nice word” – it’s also the name of a Finnish online dream forum, which the artist frequents; it’s been a source of inspiration for his lyrics.
Helsinki-based trio K-X-P are comprised of Timo Kaukolampi, Tomi Leppänen, and Tuomo Puranen. There’s a Krautrock element to their music; the sounds are rhythmic, deep and they’ve been applauded for their sonic experimentations. They released their debut, self-titled album to positive reviews in 2010 and in 2013 they released their followup album //, via UK label Melodic Records. Late last year they released their pulsating EP The History of Techno after a year-long studio hiatus. The electronic trio has supported James Blake and Moon Duo and is known for its vibrant stage presence, which often features costumes and audience interaction.
Noah Kin stands at the forefront of the expanding hip-hop scene in Helsinki. With his razor-sharp lyrics and brilliant rap flow, the talent of this 20-year-old artist certainly belies his age. Noah’s already released two solo albums: No Matter The Season in 2011 and the entirely self-produced 9fngrs in 2012. In March he released his third album entitled Now You See which includes the explosive “822.” The half-Nigerian, half-Finnish rapper has opened for Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt and performed alongside Oakland’s finest The Coup.
Check out his SoundCloud for more productions.
Helsinki-based duo Phantom is comprised of Hanna Toivonen and Tommi Koskinen. The two are founders of Helsinki-based start-ups and have turned their hands to music – a project that boasts crisp vocals with dark electronics. Jamie xx counts himself a fan and it’s easy to see why; there’s certainly xx-esque sparseness between the creeping beats and foggy layers of electro. One scheduled show at SXSW turned into five thanks to the audience’s reception. Their video for “Scars” is a beautiful amalgamation of their talents.
Check out their SoundCloud for more.
Helsinki-based DJ and producer Samuli Kemppi has been releasing top-notch minimalist techno for the last decade. Alongside Juho Kusti, he’s the man behind the acclaimed Deep Space Helsinki radio show, which also works as a label under the same name. His SoundCloud boasts a bold selection of two-hour radio sessions. Samuli Kemppi’s 2014 track “Resonant Object” is rich with twist and turns; a trippy, rhythmic 132-beats-per-minute bassline runs right through the middle of the pulsating track. He’s released a number of haunting yet invigorating EPs including Last Day On Earth, and has played extensively throughout the European techno scene. The full-length The Observer Effect was released in November 2014.
Four-piece indie-pop band Satellite Stories formed in 2008 in Oulu, Finland. Reminiscent of Two Door Cinema Club, they released their debut Phrases to Break the Ice in 2012 and their followup Pine Trails in 2013 to positive reviews – particularly from the British media. August 2014 saw them start work on their third full-length, alongside UK producer Barny Barnicott who’s known for his work with Arctic Monkeys, The Temper Trap and Editors. The result, Vagabonds, can now be pre-ordered online. Watch the fabulously Finnish video for “Campfire” – the track made Hype Machine’s no. 1 most blogged chart in September 2013.
Check out their SoundCloud for more.
Finnish psychedelic outfit Siinai’s second full-length has received quite some attention due to its overarching concept: the supermarket. The four-piece has stated their album is a “soundtrack for the supermarket nations.” The sounds are Krautrock-inspired – both ethereal and melodic and the momentum of their lengthy instrumentals is impressive. Watch the video for “Vasikka,” which is directed by Line Of Best Fit’s Sébastien Dehesdin and is set –where else? – in a supermarket. The track was the first to make it onto their accomplished record, of course titled Supermarket. It was an important, solid track for the band and features vocals by Johanna Tarkkanen.
Sin Cos Tan
Synth-pop duo Sin Cos Tan consists of Jori Hulkkonen and Juho Paalosmaa – both of who are leading men in the Finnish music scene. Jori’s worked with the likes of Kraftwerk, Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys, David Lynch and Tiga. The vocals are distinct, the production is on-point and there’s a depth to their sound that’s reminiscent of the ’80s. They’ve released a handful of EPs and full-lengths and on record, Juho’s versatile vocals juxtapose the synthetic soundscapes Jori creates. Their new album Blown Away dropped last summer and is a invigorating listen for the winter blues you may be having.