Maybe it is something to do with the landscape, but with a population only a little bigger than Spokane (about 320, 000), Iceland produces more than its fair share of talented musicians. The well-known names include Björk, Jónsi and his band Sigur Rós, as well as youngsters Of Monsters and Men.
Given that it is an isolated and sparsely populated country, musicians in Iceland are a close-knit community. They not only inspire one another, but they also frequently play music together. One example is Amiina, a string sextext that started joining Sigur Rós on stage in 1999. Their most recent album, The Lighthouse Project, was produced by Ben Frost who is one of the founding members of The Bedroom Community, an Icelandic record label/collective. Another member of The Bedroom Community is Nico Muhly, a New York-based contemporary classical music composer and arranger who has worked with Björk, Philip Glass, The National, Antony & The Johnsons, Glen Hansard, and many others.
The Lighthouse Project began four years ago when Amiina set out to tour Iceland and perform in a range of lighthouses and other unusual locations. The music seemed to float out across the waves and the world, as if carried by the beams of light. Sparse and yet warming, the music carries you to rugged, distant spaces.
Equally atmospheric is the work of Ólafur Arnalds, a multi-instrumentalist who mixes strings and piano with loops and electronic beats. Melancholic, haunting and beautiful, his music is graceful and somewhat symphonic.
Ólafur’s cousin, Ólöf Arnalds, is an extraordinary, classically trained troubadour. While her violin and viola playing are notable, it is her voice that inspires. Usually singing in her native tongue, a recent single, Surrender, was performed in English (and features backing vocals from Bjork).