Between Mountains: “But I know I don’t have to be in love to wanna meet you” – Live at Iceland Airwaves

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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I first saw Between Mountains at Iceland Airwaves 2017, just 6 months after they won Músíktilraunir, the annual Icelandic “Battle of the Bands,” and back then it was a very different band. At that time they were a duo — Katla Vigdís Vernharðsdóttir and and Ásrós Helga Guðmundsdóttir — and their name represented the fact that were from different fjords (in Westfjords region of Iceland) located “between mountains.” They harmonized beautifully together and incorporated elements of keyboard, xylophone, and accordion into their songs with a proficiency way beyond their years. Fast forward another 2 years and they are now a 4 piece live: Katla (the muse of Between Mountains) on vocals/keys, her father Vernharður Jósefsson on bass, her brother Valgeir Skorri Vernharðsson on drums (also drummer for Mammut and drum tech for Sigur Ros), and Salóme Katrín Magnúsdóttir on backing vocals/keys. While I enjoyed the duo before, I must say that I prefer the larger band much more and appreciate the clever, catchy percussion that Valgeir brings with his extensive experience on drums. The talent within this family is enormous (Katla and Valgeir’s brother is the talented front man of Rythmatik), and has me imagining how their spurious moments of “playing around the house” has led to the masterpieces we hear now. Please do yourself a favor and listen to their debut album, ‘Between Mountains’ (released on Nov 1 and produced by Arnar Guðjónsson of Warmland), because it’s AMAZING and chock-full of hits: ‘Little Lies,’ ‘I Don’t Want to be in Love,’ ‘What Breaks Me,’ and ‘Synthalag.’ ‘Little Lies’ is an incredibly beautiful track with lyrics that I’m sure we can all relate to (“My mind will fall apart again, now it’s only a matter of when, it rise up as I go down.. and there I stay, I reach for you, meet me halfway… I wonder if I’ll be the same, and how I will keep myself sane, confine my thoughts, tie every note… I told you a lie when I told you I’m fine”) and I’m so impressed that they lyrics were written by someone only 18 yrs of age. The same goes for the song, ‘I Don’t Want to be in Love,’ which has a style reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten (whom I absolutely adore). : “It’s been 3 weeks since we’ve first met and I thought I hadn’t screwed up yet. I haven’t felt this way for someone in almost a year. I missed it when it was gone but I’m scared that it’s here. Cause I’m not very good at this and I never show my cards. I am too afraid of it, I won’t let my guards. But I know I don’t have to be in love to wanna meet you.” WOW. I know we can ALL relate to this one even though we’d rather not admit it: Poignant, vulnerable thoughts laced with infectious, upbeat melodies and gorgeous harmonies. ‘What Breaks Me’ is another stunner, and you’re bound to sing along to the catchy chorus (“It’s what I can hold that makes me, what I’ve been told what breaks me”) that Katla and Salóme so intricately deliver with staggering vocals that echo one another like a call-and-response.  Still, the song that I feel STOLE THE SPOTLIGHT at The Hard Rock Cafe was, ‘Into The Dark’ (nominated for “Video of the Year” at the Icelandic music awards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp4AHG8OkRg), which Katla said she wrote when she was only 14 yrs old. UNBELIEVABLE. This one starts out soft but picks up on speed and intensity, and you can feel your adrenaline pumping as you anticipate the crescendo of the cryptic chorus: “It says you’re deeper in the sea.. I feel you’re face.. I see your face.” The harmonies in this one are gorgeous, and I made sure to mention that when a famous writer for Rolling Stone magazine was showering her with compliments later that night. Another song that stole the spotlight and had me all teary-eyed and emotional was Synthalag,’: “the colors in your eyes tell me stories, about what should have been and why I ran, the buttons your coat say ‘you’r sorry,’ cause they can hear and no one else can, and when I look up to the sky, I suddenly feel alive. The lights are dancing with the stars. And we just sit and watch.” OUTSTANDING VOCALS that will take your breathe away and transport you to a place under the arctic sky, looking up at the stars “together” with someone you love.  Between Mountains are certainly rising out above the rest and getting the visibility they deserve. I sure hope to see them in the states next year! ❤

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Hatari: “Dance of corruption, Trance of consumption, Greed and extravagance, Where do we go now?” – Live at Iceland Airwaves

 Written by Erica Andreozzi

 

Hatari’s show at The Reykjavik Art museum (11/8/19) this year was PURE PERFECTION, and one of the most phenomenal productions I have witnessed at Iceland Airwaves thus far. It has been incredibly eye-opening to watch how this band had evolved from when I first saw them at Kaffibarinn in 2017 (see review here), and I am constantly amazed at their efforts and execution in redefining the impossible. Known for their drive to defeat capitalism, Hatari started off their show with visual depictions (iPhone, computers, etc.) of how digital technology is trying is consume our thoughts and control our minds to perceive a reality that is not healthy. They also ended the show with this same theme, bringing us back full circle after unleashing our disgust for the “rampant hypocrisy that exists in this world.” Meticulously dressed in intricate, ornate BDSM attire, this transfixing trio — Klemens Hannigan (vocals), Matthías Tryggvi Haraldson (vocals), and Einar Stéfansson (drums, also the guitarist for the amazing band Vok!) — had our eyes locked on their every move. I was mad impressed by the visuals that the glow-in-the-dark whips dangling from Matthias’ wrists made as he swung them around frivolously while dancing. They were a perfect pairing to the glow-in-the-dark leather strap suits worn by the beautiful, alluring female dancers Sólbjört Sigurðardóttir and Ástrós Guðjónsdóttir who cranked up heated up even more. They also had surprise guest appearances by a rapper and a singer (wish I knew their names) that had us all hot and bothered. And if that wasn’t enough to raise our body temperatures many degrees higher, the EXPLOSIVE PRISM OF FIREWORKS shooting up from the front of the stage SURE WAS. I still recall my friend Erika and I gasping at that exact same moment as we marveled at this SIGHT OF ALL SIGHTS. What I find most compelling about Hatari is their ability to keep a straight poker face during this entire epic production. It’s their discerning dichotomies – their ability keep a straight poker face when delivering devilish, primal screams and disturbing, suicide lyrics to happy techno beats – that keeps us coming back for more. They exude a mystery and allure that is truly magnetic, and it’s this fascinating paradox that we can get enough of. Almost everyone around me knew all of the lyrics for ‘Spillingardans,’ ‘X,’ ‘Hatrið mun sigra,’ and ‘Biðröð Mistaka,’ just to name a few. After earning themselves Reykjavik’s Grapevine‘s “Best Live Band” pick of 2016 and 2017, and most recently a highly competitive top 10 spot in the 2019 Eurovision contest, Hatari’s fans are growing astronomically, and on a global scale. It’s only perfect timing then that Hatari is gearing up for a ‘Europe Will Crumble’ tour of 18 European cities in 2020. This is only the tip of the iceberg for these Icelandic renegades. Just you wait and see. See below for full videos of the show from my Facebook page.

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Eric Long: “So hold onto the best, and let go of the rest, cause in the morning, them sweet things might be gone” – Live at Sofar Sounds in SF (Aug 12, 2019)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

Grateful to have discovered the massively talented singer/songwriter Eric Long at High Sierra music fest this year, and even more grateful to have caught him at an intimate Sofar Sounds show in SF earlier this month. I found myself instantly memorized by his rich, raspy vocals and his blending of folk, Americana, and blues. He stands out as one of the few SF Bay area musicians playing a finger-style bottleneck slide guitar that draws strong similarities to Keb Mo, Taj Mahal, and Charlie Parr. SUCH A TREAT. Songs like ‘Dance with Me,’ ‘Hey Now Baby,’ ‘Leaving,’ ‘Maraschino Cherries,’ and ‘Pennsylvania on My Mind’ had me hooked hard, and I found myself playing his 2018 album, ‘A Long Way From Home,’ during my entire 10 hr drive back to LA the next day. ‘Pennsylvania on My Mind’ especially hit home, considering that I too moved from Pennsylvania to California over a decade ago and had to endure the mixed emotions of uprooting to a new coast in search of new adventure and new possibilities. ‘Hey Now Baby’ is also a beautiful track for the lovers, with lyrics that certainly melt the heart: “Hey now baby.. while your dreaming gets my heartbeat, you are stealing my breath away.” If I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be ‘Maraschino Cherries,’ for the melody and beautiful violin, as well as the pensive lyrics that I think we can all relate too: “Still don’t know where I’m going, guess it’s time to move along, don’t know where I’m headed there’s just no where to know. It’s so easy to say, little harder to do, sometimes it’s the sweetest things that you can’t hold on to …Take alot of man to know what he’s after, a better man let it walk away.. What’s a good man to do without a women by his side… Sometimes it’s the sweetest things that fade away before too long. So hold onto the best, and let go of the rest, cause in the morning, them sweet things might be gone.” Eric Long’s music a sweet thing that I certainly want to hold on to, and I hope he will be playing for a long, long time. ❤

 

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Rett Madison: “Shame is a river, and I’ve crossed its waters, always sink… Hope’s on the other side, and I’ve got guilt I’ve got bricks to my feet… Love is a sunrise, where’s the light to eclipse my grief?” – Live at The HiHat in LA (March 8, 2019)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

Photo credit: Nikki Neumann (website: Neumann.com  /  Instagram: @nkknmmn)

“Everybody says I’m just like you, is that one of the many things you suffered through… both know sadness too well I lost you too, waking up without you is waking up in hell, I never meet you 48, you won’t cry on my wedding day, you’ll never hear my children say your name, Jaqueline… I’m just pissed off and bitter, I couldn’t save my mother, I’m grappling with what I got left” 

FUCK. Tears just won’t stop flowing. Such a heavy heart listening to Rett Madison sing about the recent loss of her mother Jaqueline at The Hihat last night. It was very hard to hold back the tears, and it breaks me to think about the pain that this incredibly talented, hilarious, down-to-earth, and downright adorable person must be going through. Just last month at The Bootleg, Rett mentioned that her stage banter was a bit off because she “has just lost her mom” and “feels a bit weird.” ‘Jaqueline,’ ‘Death Don’t Make a Bitch An Angel’, ‘Flea Market,’ (see videos below) and ‘Don’t Know Better Till You Do’ (“I admit that pride gets my tongue, but you and I are of the same blood and you played the game better than I could.. when I should have done better by you”), were all songs that hit us a like a brick wall and triggered instant tearshed. Heavy and intense, you could feel the cathartic relief accompanying each lyric as Rett belted them vehemently from her chest. Rett also played ‘Shame is a River,’ (LOVE) ‘Pin Up Daddy,’ ‘Fleas,’ and ‘God is a Woman,’ all tracks (videos below) I had heard before and instantly connected with, wishing they were already available on Spotify. Her album is going to be an absolute masterpiece.

Rest Madison certainly stands out as my top 3 discoveries in 2019, and I will see her every chance I can get. To stay that I was stunned the first time I saw Rett play (which happened to be alongside Emma Cole and Wolf Bay at Madam Siam back in Oct and then later opening for Lauren Ruth Ward at The El Rey) would be an understatement. The minute Rett opened her mouth was the minute MY mouth would remain open, jaw dropped on the floor. Her West Virginia roots have fertilized a southern-raspy vibe that stands out in the LA music scene, carving a niche that not many can touch. She almost always starts her show with a gospel-like vocal intro called ‘One Year‘ (video below) that hooks you hard, stopping you in your tracks like a dear in headlights. Every song in her set is a masterpiece, and it blows me away that she is only in her early 20s. Since the Madame Siam show, I have been obsessively listening to her EP (God Is a Women, Mother’s Girl, Twinty-Five) over and over. I can understand some of the frustrations she mentions in ‘Twenty-Five’ (“My pals are all making plans and playing house… but I ain’t got a damn thing figured out”), but cannot understand her sense of urgency with her self-imposed time line: “Why did I romanticize where I’d be at 25… and I know that I know that I’ve still young but how come I’ve run out of time.” She is still SO YOUNG and is FAR FROM “running out of time.” She has already surpassed many her age, having written incredibly brilliant songs that raise ever hair on my body when I hear them sung out loud. Considering it was INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, it was also PERFECTLY FITTING for Rett to play ‘God Is a Woman’ (“I wish I had known back then that no love is a sin… cause GOD’S A WOMAN, She F*CKS A WOMAN, just as divine… that GOD’S A DIKE, and she made rainbows to give us a sign”) for her encore. I will forever put Rett up on a pedestal & broadcast her gift to the world until her fans are “drawing rainbows 🌈 in the sky to give her a sign.” ❤

Videos:

“If I was given one month to live, I’d carry our dreams in a bucket till we crossed our last wish off our list. If I was given one day, if I was given one day to live, I’d memorize your kiss with my clumsy mouth while you hold my shaky legs still. If I was given one hour, If I was given one hour to live, I would praise your body with every own god sin there is. If I was given one breath, if I was given one hour, if I was given one day, if I was given one month. If I was given one year, if I was given one year to year. I would plant that tree in the garden to keep track of our last seasons. If I was give one year.”

“Let me tell ya it takes more than a stitch to make me obedient… I never learned how to stay cause I was born a stray, yes I was born a stray”

“Shame is a river, and I’ve crossed its waters, always sink… Hope’s on the other side, and I’ve got guilt I’ve got bricks to my feet… I was 15 when I had my first drink, I’m on the sofa across from a shrink, keeping my mouth shut and grinding my teeth.. Got away as far as I could but that didn’t do me any good… love is a sunrise, where’s the light to eclipse my grief… Grace speaks of silence, I’ve been quiet but I only hear my own scream.”

“I’m so pathetic, I begged God to trade my life, with my mom’s, but you didn’t have that, you never asked me, you only wanted me to be happy… So I’m trying my best to be happy”

“Sometimes I think you live you through me, and you’re pissed you’re not directing the movie… If I die would you find a way to make my pain about you… When I go I already know that death don’t make a bitch an angel”

“Mamma never said I was second best, she loved a TomBoy in a Sequin dress…”

“I wish I had known back then that no love is a sin.. cause GOD’S A WOMAN, She FUCKS A WOMAN, just as divine… that GOD’S A DIKE, and she made rainbows to give us a sign”

 

 

Previous reviews (The Bootleg, The Love Song Bar, The El Rey, Madam Siam):

 

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Iceland Airwaves (Nov 3-5, 2017) – Review

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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I’ve worn plenty of wristbands in my day, but this one I wear with MOST PRIDE. Having been accepted to my second Iceland Airwaves Music Festival as a media pass holder is an opportunity that I do NOT take lightly, and I tried my best to capture the highlights of this magical, musical mystery tour.  Not only does this “land of Ice” know know to shatter glass ceilings and defy the odds of artistic potential and possibility, but it does so in a way that is warm (“land of fire”) and welcoming, and so in the least bit pretentious. The sky is definitely the limit for this innovative, ingenious, impressive Island. The music, people, and scenery is uncharacteristic of anywhere else.  ❤ 

Here are some of the bands that left a lasting impression in my mind and made me question the boundaries of human creativity (click on names or links below to see the full reviews): Hatari, Hogni, Hormonar, Kiriyama Family, We Made God, Omotrack, Rythmatik, Captain Syrup, Arstidir, Between Mountains, Axel Flovent, Mani Orrason, One Week Wonder, GDJYB (non-Icelandic), and Mammut (a personal favorite).  Since my review for Mammut was taking a very long to write (I often find it most difficult to write about bands that move me the most), I decided to write a combined review on their 2017 & 2018 Airwaves shows. Other Icelandic bands I have written about in the past are Asgeir, VAR, Vok, Kaleo, For a Minor Reflection, Sin Fang, Agent Fresco, Lay Low, Rokvva, Samaris, etc. See my reviews on Asgeir and Low Roar. See videos below from Airwaves 2017 when Mammut performed ‘Kinder Versions,’ ‘Pray for Air in the Water,’ ‘The Moon Will Never Turn on Me,’ ‘Walls,’ and ‘What’s Your Secret(these absolutely SLAY):

 

Hogni: “Wonderful dreams that were uncomfortable scenes out of nowhere… Wonderful scenes that were uncomfortable schemes out of nowhere” – Live at Secret Solstice and Iceland Airwaves (June/Nov 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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“I’m in love I’m in love I’m in love can’t you tell?”… I’M IN LOVE with this song ‘Moon pitcher‘ that Hogni wrote for his fiance in his debut album, Two Trains, released Oct 2017 by Erased Tapes record label.  Hogni quotes: “I feel I tried my best to create an honest and passionate piece of musical work and I hope you will find the time and space to enjoy it as well as finding that connection. As a musician you aspire to create that other world, that sense of hypnosis.”  I def entered that other world, “CAN’T YOU TELL.” 🙂 ❤

Hogni was one of my top new discoveries at Secret Solstice 2017, and I could not wait to see him again at Iceland Airwaves 6 months later. His deep vocals and ethereal, experimental electronic arrangements simply SLAY, and I was so happy to hear the new gems from Two Trains, an album that he describes in the following words:

“The music on Two Trains is a blue-print of a period in my life where I collided with my own self, and at that point I felt the indifference between the personal and the universal, the absolute consciousness of life’s unconsciousness. Perhaps it’s a feeling that cannot be conveyed, like watercolours that just seem to wash off into the sea. But also a flashing mirage that you can enjoy before you arrive at your last destination.”

Hogni also alludes to this album as a personal expression of the tugging dichotomies he faces while living with bipolar disorder: “I’m bipolar. I got very sick and it has affected my life drastically. This album bears witness to it… (In) the last few years, the swings have decreased in size. When I was the most ill a few years ago, I felt terrible, even if you couldn’t see it. There was just so much going on, lots of fun, and even excitement about going to the psych ward for the first time. Like I was going down a new path for myself. But I haven’t seen it as exciting since then.”

Maybe this phenomena is what he was describing in his song (video below) where he sings:  “Wonderful dreams that were uncomfortable scenes out of nowhere… Wonderful scenes that were uncomfortable schemes out of nowhere.”

Previously known as frontman of the well-known indie rock band Hjaltalin and former member of ambient-techno group GusGus), Hogni proves that “Two Trains”, “change and metamorphosis” are his preferred method of transportation in this journey we call life. His “I can do whatever I dream” (lyrics in one of the videos below) is infectious and his tenacity for movement and exploration are an inspiration to us all: “My life is untethered, in many ways,” Högni says. “I try to focus on making good music and seeking inspiration, chasing experiences, travelling and finding adventures.

Aside from fronting two touring bands, Hogni has made time to score numerous theatre pieces, most notably The Heart of Robin Hood (dir. Gísli Gardarsson), staged by The Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 and Angels of the Universe (dir. Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson), the Icelandic National Theatre’s 2013 adaptation of a well-known and loved novel and film of the same title.mHe has also written music for film and television, including a well-received score for short film Víkingar (dir. Magali Magistry, 2013) which won the Golden Rail award and was nominated for the Discovery award, both at the Cannes Film Festival. There really is no telling where his “Two Trains” will take us next. I don’t know about you , but I am surely ALL ABOARD. ❤

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We Made God: Hail to this Higher Power – Live at Iceland Airwaves (Nov 4, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

 

I remember nearly suffering a mild stroke the first time I saw Iceland’s own We Made God at Iceland Airwaves Music Festival back in 2014. At one point the lead guitarist Arnór Jónasson jumped off stage and started swinging his guitar back and forth in front of my friend Jensyn Lynn Hallett and I as he furiously strummed the strings, smirking a bit as we began squealing with joy. It was as if We Made God (Arnór – Guitar, Biggi – Drums, Maggi – Vox/ Guitar, Stúni – Bass) were all about making violent, cathartic, adrenaline-ridden performances and that spin you into another orbit. I’m just glad this epic encore didn’t spin me face-first into the table of guys below me! We Made God’s brain-bending live performances of math/progressive rock have been recognized by both domestic and foreign media, and their devout fans orbiting around the world can’t wait for the release of their third album next year. As of late 2018, Arnór decided to leave We Made God to focus more time on his role as lead guitarist in VAR (love their sound, see videos below) as well as supporting Maggi’s solo project, Mighty Bear.  With his talent, creativity, and breadth of experience, I’m pretty stoked to see what new direction Arnór is pointing his compass. 🙂  Be sure to check out We Made God, VAR, and Mighty Bear at this year’s Airwaves 2018!