Festivals are funny beasts to summarise in the form of a review, but with a music awards ceremony seemingly every other day we thought that format was something you'd be familiar with. DiS has covered Iceland Airwaves many times - and in many different ways - over the past few years, and it's grown to become one of the most influential festivals of the winter season, not to mention one of the best at exposing an international audience to a wealth of local talent. We put on a few extra layers and headed out in search of some good stuff, and forty or so gigs and several pints of our spiritual sponsor Viking later, here's what we liked the most...
Best New Band:
Sudden Weather Change
When DiS stumbled into the back of a little coffee shop we expected to see some barely there folkster doing their best troubadour impression. Instead we got whooped upside the head by the lo-fi fizz of young post-hardcore loving boys Sudden Weather Change. Comparisons range from The Promise Ring and Braid (but the too-serious tone replaced by the exuberance of Burning Airlines, Les Savy Fav and, er, Less Than Jake - although praps only a line drawn cus of topless kids "pogoing") to the unfurling art-rock of Wolf Parade and Sonic Youth. Well SY at those moments when they hit that apex point of life-affirmingness when your writhing is body possessed by the beat and those warm rushes of guitar fuzz gush through you and stroke your cortex (i.e. 'Teenage Riot'). Add in a lyrics about hating Nicholas Cage, all sung by the three different kinds of geeky frontman and you have one of the most refreshing new bands around. (Their MySpace tracks don't quite do them justice but have a listen here.)
Runner Up: The Hot-Chip-with-big-synths-and-a-member-of-Mum fun that is FM Belfast (MySpace).
Best New Epic/Post-Rock/Instrumental band:
On first impressions he makes incredibly subtle soundtracky modern classical music but the sound builds and builds and grows humungous electronica-sprinkled balls, not unlike Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I - IV (get it for free here) meets some of the darker moments of Sigur Ros' ( ). Projections of birds rising and the huge string section bring these seemingly slight piano tinklings to cataclysmic conclusions. Olafur makes something incredibly humbling, haunting and harrowing: a definite must see for any discerning music lover. (MySpace).
Runners up: For a Minor Reflection who're taking their Explosions in the Sky-esque lushness on tour across Europe this Autumn, including dates with Sigur Ros (MySpace).
Best Rock Act; sponsored by ThrashHits.com:
ROCKjavik's got a lot to offer in this category and Agent Fresco blew us away a bit. Sounding like a less-than-bizarre mix of Dillinger Escape Plan and System of a Down, they made us dance a bit with their stuttering dynamics then sing along to their stunning track, 'Eyes Of A Cloud Catcher'. We were shielded our eyes from the frontman's… interesting trousers. (MySpace)
Best Icelandic Party; sponsored by Raz's Liver:
Saturday night's always the night to party and nobody knows how to party like the islanders do. A totally unofficial gig at a Thai karaoke bar (they needed to build the stage), next to Reykjavik's strip club (yes, the strippers joined us) is always going to be interesting. With the kings of Faroese indie, Boys In A Band (MySpace) as well as hard-touring natives Skatar (MySpace) and Bloodgroup (MySpace) on the bill, this was a showcase of the finest the country has to offer.
Runners Up: Every night at Dillon and the Sirkus exhibition in London, annoyingly at the same time.