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Iceland Bucket List: Music

The Ultimate Icelandic Music Bucket List

|June 16, 2020
Jessie is your basic nature lover with a particular interest in all things water. From the high peaks of the Himalaya's to the lush depths of the Amazon, she's hiked some of the the world's greatest trails.

This is the fourth part in our Iceland Bucket List Series here at Extreme Iceland. Each week we will feature a new list of things you must see or do before you leave Iceland. This week we are talking about music. 10 Icelandic bands and artist that you should listen to while you are in Iceland.

1. Kaleo

Kaleo Icelandic band

Kaleo is a four man rock band that was formed in a garage in a small town in Iceland. The band started by gaining popularity in Iceland, and soon they got a record deal, and moved to Austin, Texas in the United States. The band has traveled all over the United States playing their music, and have been gaining popularity. Even though Kaleo is positioned in the U.S., the band has not forgotten about their Icelandic roots, and the band has filmed some of their amazing new music videos in Iceland.

Genre: Rock

Language: Icelandic and English

Performing since: 2012

KALEO - All The Pretty Girls (Official Video)

2. Sigur Rós

Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros is probably the most famous band in Iceland. The band is not very new to the scene, as they have been active together for over 20 years. Sigur Rós's music is difficult to describe, without actually listening to it. The band has invented their own language that is prevalent in many of their songs. The language, Hopelandic (Vonlenska in Icelandic) focuses entirely on the sounds of language, not words, grammar, and meaning. It's quite beautiful. Sigur Rós's music has been used in many films and TV-series, such as Game of Thrones, 127 hours, Orphan Black, and many more.

Genre: Post-rock, experimental rock, dream pop, ambient, art rock

Language: Vonlenska (Hopelandic), Icelandic, English

Performing since: 1994

3. Of Monsters and Men

Monsters And Men band

Of Monsters and Men is another Icelandic band that has been gaining some popularity worldwide. This five member band won an annual music competition in Iceland, Músíktilraunir, in 2010, and rose in popularity after that. The band has now been on top of the charts in many different countries. Music from Of Monsters of Men has also been featured in films and tv-shows such as Grey's Anatomy and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This year, Of Monsters and Men did a U.S. tour, as well as they performed at Coachella.

Genre: Folk Rock, indie folk pop

Language: English

Performing since: 2010

Of Monsters And Men - Little Talks (Official Lyric Video)

4. Björk

Icelandic singer Bjork

Björk is probably the best known Icelandic artist worldwide. Björk is well known for her unique style of music, and unique style of clothing (remember the swan dress?). Björk has won countless awards both in Iceland and internationally, for her singing and songwriting. Björk's music was influenced greatly by the Icelandic nature, as she grew up in Iceland and resides there today. Björk is an amazing and unique artist, who you should definitely know about and listen to before coming to Iceland!

Genre: She's all over the place!

Language: Icelandic and English

Performing since: 1976

björk : possibly maybe (HD)

5. Valdimar

Icelandic indie pop band Valdimar

Valdimar started out as a duo in 2009, but gradually they have grown into a six member band. The band started out in an apartment in Keflavik, Iceland. Most of their music is in Icelandic, and even though you might not understand Icelandic, the music is extremely beautiful to listen to. Their music is soft and intimate, and the lyrics are very vulnerable and beautiful.

Genre: Indie Pop and Rock

Language: Mosty in Icelandic, some songs in English

Performing since: 2009

Valdimar - Yfir Borgina (Official Music Video)

6. Sóley

Icelandic multi-instrumentalist singer Soley

Sóley is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. Sóley was in the Icelandic band Seabear where she mainly played the piano and sang backing vocals. Sóley later discovered that she had great vocal skills and decided to go out and try being a solo artist. Sóley's music is very dreamy and beautiful. Sóley will perform at this year's Iceland Airwaves Festival in November.

Genre: Indie folk, Indie pop

Language: Icelandic and English

Performing since: 2006

Sóley - Pretty Face (Official Video)

7. Vök

Icelandic dream pop and indietronic band Vok

Vök is a relatively new band in Iceland. The band was formed in Reykjavik in 2013 in order to participate in the annual Icelandic music competition, Músíktilraunir. The band ended up winning the contest and has gained a lot of popularity in Iceland. Vök will perform at the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in November.

Genre: dream pop, indie-electronica

Language: Icelandic and English

Performing since: 2013

Vök : Before

8. GusGus

Electronic music band Gusgus

GusGus is an electronic soul band that formed in Reykjavik in 1995. The band has therefore been around for more than 20 years. GusGus likes to mix together music and vision, so going to one of their concerts is an amazing experience. GusGus is currently touring internationally and we recommend that you check out to see if they are coming near you!

Genre: Electronic

Language: English

Performing since: 1995

Gus Gus - Polyesterday (Official Video)


 Icelandic singer Jófríður Ákadóttir

JFDR is the Icelandic music artist and multi-instrumentalist Jófríður Ákadóttir. Although she’s fairly new to the music scene, the Icelandic singer has already started to build a significant international fan-base. Enjoy her dynamic voice on tracks such as “White Sun” and “My Work.”

JFDR - My Work

10. Ólafur Arnalds

Ólafur Arnalds - Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer

Ólafur Arnalds is Iceland’s most famous contemporary instrumentalist, who has brought modern-day classical music into the mainstream worldwide. The composer constantly redefines his sound and continues to bring unique sounds to the ears of his fans. If you want to get an idea of Arnalds’s brilliance, we suggest listening to his 2018 album re:member from start to finish. 

Ólafur Arnalds - re:member

Want to discover Reykjavik, the heart of Icelandic music? Learn more about Iceland’s capital city to start planning your trip today.

11. Arstidir

Árstíðir is an indipendent band with it's own record company. They have even used Kickstarter to crowdfund one of their albums. Árstíðir has often performed in strange venues such as churches, cemeteries, and train stations, which makes their music and performance even more unique. Árstíðir will perform in this years Iceland Airwaves, where they will perform in Fríkirkjan Church.

Genre: Indie-folk, classical

Language: Icelandic and English

Performing since: 2008

Árstíðir - Heyr himna smiður (Icelandic hymn) in train station

12. Retro Stefson

Retro Stefson is a a member band that creates dance music. They have released 3 albums and performed in many places in Iceland and internationally. Retro Stefson has been gaining in popularity and following, and they celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the band recently. Retro Stefson is currently performing in a few cities in Europe. Make sure to check out if they are coming to a city near you!

Genre: Alternative rock, dance

Language: English

Performing since: 2006

Retro Stefson - Glow (Official Video)

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