Song of the Day: múm – If I Were a Fish

photo by Brittney Bush Bollay

photo by Brittney Bush Bollay

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “If I Were a Fish” by múm from their 2009 album Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know on Morr Music.

múm – If I Were a Fish (MP3)

If evolution could be summed up in one word, I think scientists should refer to the process as múm. Since their formation in 1997, Iceland’s pioneers of folktronica have undergone constant member, instrumental and stylistic metamorphosis. Múm (pronounced moom) has fluctuated between an initial duo to a recent seven-piece eccentric ensemble, all the while experimenting amid Björk-like bizarreness and conventional indie pop. The only thing concrete about the Nordic outfit are core members and founders Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar þóreyjarson Smáraso. But that’s ok, because living on an island myself (Bainbridge, unfortunately) I totally understand the feeling of being trapped and restless that sparks the need to change and travel. Unpredictability often spawns beauty, like múm’s fifth album Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know.

It’s no surprise that Sing Along has received mixed reviews ranging from “a flickering candle of an album” to a “set your stereo to repeat” record when compared to their debut masterpiece Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK and Finally We Are No One (2002). I happen to lean toward the let-artists-change-because-they’re-real-people side and learn to appreciate the new creativity a band is willing to pour out to the world. Sing Along does downplay múm’s signature electro-oddity but not their personality nor talent. Opening track “If I Were A Fish” is the perfect example of the more refined quirkiness found on the album. Beginning with the quiet strum of ukulele and guitar, hammered dulcimer and sweet, drowsy vocals chime in, unfolding a narrative about being a fish, drowning in a soggy eyeball and having babies with a seashell. Although the lyrics may seem quite bizarre, múm explains it’s merely a love song which happens to include a fish. After a few rounds of fairytale “la, la, la’s” the song winds down to a sleepy end, making me ponder what would do if I were an aquatic animal.

Since múm is currently touring Europe, check out their recent KEXP live in-studio for some dreamy songs off of Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know. Here’s a live version of today’s Song of the Day performed at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles last month:

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