Asgeir– Bush Hall (December 11, 2013)
Meet Asgeir, a new, up-and-coming Icelandic musician who’s debut album sold more copies in Iceland than that of Bjork and Sigur Ros (apparently 1 out of 10 Icelanders own his album), and I CAN DEFINITELY TELL WHY. Let’s just say..umm… SPELL-BINDING?…Ethereal folk layered with beautiful harmonies (almost falsetto sounding), warm electronica, and adroit guitar picking. His delicate, falsetto voice reminds me a bit of Justin Veron, and the band’s sound overall is similar to both Bon Iver and Volcano Choir. It was such a treat to hear some of the tracks sung in Icelandic, for which they were originally written and only later translated by John Grant (another great artist) in English to reach more people. My first encounter with the Icelandic language WAS through Asgeir, and I have so much more of an appreciation for this beautiful language because of his music. And to think that they also kicked off their December show at Bush Hall in London with some Icelandic Christmas carols. (Merry xmas to you). I just wish they didn’t have the entire show in the dark! See videos/pics from that show below.
Fortunately I was also able to catch Asgeir again in the spring when they played at the lovely Union Chapel in Islington. Head In the Snow has always been one of my favorites, so me eyes IMMEDIATELY LIT UP when they kicked off their set with this gem. I distinctly remember listening to this one on the bus ride from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik, and suddenly my mind became flooded with flashbacks from that magical place. I am whisked away to stunning landscapes of giant glaciers and mighty waterfalls that breathe life into the tree-less mountainside. “Hope and faith, Don’t you fail me now…Hope and faith, Come and warm my heart…Hope and faith, Fill me up with strength.” (It’s not uncommon that I daydream at least ONCE when listening to their album)..Next up was In the Silence, another favorite for which I first heard in Icelandic at their Bush Hall gig. It was such a treat to see how a song that you ALREAD THOUGHT BEAUTIFUL could capture even more beauty when sung in a different language (especially one as lovely as Icelandic!): “Come, take my hand, Let’s undo the knots of the past…Watch the mind run far away…and everything that will be and was here and now.”
Asgeir then took us on a detour to dark waters, playing a new song called The Ocean (see video below).
From the ocean to the sky, he soon takes us higher and higher into another dimension with the beautiful soft electronica and gentle vocals of Higher:
“I lift my mind to the sky, and I let it take flight
The wind carries to my ears, precious sounds of life…
Higher HIGHER…I must go…
Higher HIGHER…Far away….
And the glare of this world is more than humbled…”
After taking flight with Higher and Higher, Asgeir brought us home with Going Home. Of all this songs on the album, this is the one that changed most drastically from its initial release, and I really enjoyed witnessing the evolution. “Home, I’m making my way home….My mind’s already there.” (last phrase always slays me)…Summer Guest was to follow, and the last line of this song SLAYS ME even harder: “You made a shelter for my soul if your language I could speak..I would weave a song for you of my own.”
Asgeir then surprises us all with a tribute to Kurt Cobain on the week of his death anniversary (can’t believe it’s been 20 years), performing a heart-wrenching over of Nirvana‘s Heart-Shaped Box:
“She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak
I’ve been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks
I’ve been drawn into your magnet tar-pit trap
I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black..”
I’m pretty sure every inch of my body was covered in goosebumps. Kurt was def smiling that night. x
A few tracks later came Asgeir’s notable King and Cross, a beautiful song laced with catchy beats and cool keyboard/synth elements. This lyrics always speak to me: “Death cannot take hold, if I can keep momentum…I’ve found my strength now.” LOVE. Then came Torrent, my FAVORITE on the album (although it’s very hard to choose). When I first heart this track, it kinda reminded me of a Christmas carol, and its uplifting aura gets more and more intense every time I listen. So many magical sounds weaved into this musical masterpiece, especially the percussion (and the drummer’s intensity is hilarious to watch). No wonder they saved it for the encore! (Also, you MUST out the original version in Icelandic: Nýfallið Regn.STUUUUUUNING.)
Ásgeir‘s solo encore of One That Day was one of my highlights of the night. It’s the only song he played by himself, showcasing the pure, organic, spiritual quality to his voice (as his range hits the upper echelons in flawlessly fluctuating falsetto). He was clearly in his element, and you couldn’t help be whisked away to a mystical place (maybe the glacier lagoons of Iceland) and drowned in the fluid sound of his atmospheric, folk-laced tempos. And to be heard in a high-ceiling Gothic church with subtle lighting?…Dying.
“Just one look at you
and then I knew
On that day…
Serendipity smiled down on me.”
I am so glad I discovered the ICELANDIC PROPHET that is Asgeir when I did (back in December) because is HUGE now and has globe-trotted all over the world, covering lot of ground and hitting big festivals in the states and in Europe. His music has been the musical medicine for my soul, and I can’t stop dreaming of my future adventures in Iceland when I GET BACK THERE in November for ICELAND AIRWAVES. So stoked to see him again, along with other Icelandic artists (Low Roar, Lay Low, Samaris, Mammut, SOLSTAFIR, Low Roar), and to explore his magical land with one of my best friends from California! I would have moved to Iceland in a heartbeat if they had work for me there. It’s UNREAL in so many ways, and EVERYONE needs to travel there (and soak up the local music) at least ONCE in their lifetime. Check out the documentary video that my friend Marissa (super-talented) made from our trip there back in March. SO looking forward to ROUND 2 of this trip in the next few months! ❤
(Setlists for both gigs are post below. I made sure I was lucky enough to be in front both times.)
Asgeir– Union Chapel (April 8, 2014)
On That Day:
Asgeir– Bush Hall (December 11, 2014)
King and Cross:
Head in the Snow (Icelandic version):
In the Silence:
On the Day: