Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part 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 Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Mockingbird” by Snorri Helgason from the 2011 album Winter Sun on Kimi Records.
Listeners of the Afternoon Show will recognize Snorri Helgason’s gentle yet resonant voice, as he’s become a favorite of Kevin Cole and the other KEXP DJs, particularly since our broadcast from Iceland in October. In fact, we liked Snorri Helgason so much that we invited him to join us back in Seattle for the Reykjavik Calling showcase soon afterwards! Also unmistakable is Snorri’s penchant for an American western sound, which can be heard on his two solo albums — 2009’s I’m Gonna Put My Name On Your Door and his most recent release, Winter Sun, produced by another one of our Icelandic friends, Sindri Már Sigfússon of Seabear and Sin Fang.
Previously, Snorri Helgason rocked out quite a bit more with the short-lived but very well-received pop group Sprengjuhöllin, which released two albums and garnered much critical and commercial acclaim. As that band went on hiatus, Snorri began recording solo. While his first album relies on a foundation of basic, traditional folk, the new album is more experimental and reaching. Sindri Már lends textures and direction, yet the backbone is Snorri’s plaintive lyrics and wistful tone.
Today’s featured song, “Mockingbird,” is terrific example of this coming together of minds. Snorri’s chiming guitar threads along a retro Casio beat (note: no live drums were used in the recording of the album) amid a light crackle of distortion, while his voice is thrown into a deep well of distortion. The vibe is LA in the 50’s and among touchstones are Tindersticks, Timber Timbre, and The Tallest Man on Earth. The real beauty, and this can be said of much Icelandic music when heard from the outside, is a comforting familiarity held barely aloft over an enticing otherworldliness. Give a listen to “Mockingbird” and you’ll be instantly entranced.
Though he currently lives in London, tonight Snorri Helgason is back in Iceland performing with our friends at the KEX Hostel (where we broadcast from in October). You can keep up with him on his website and Facebook page, among other places. We were lucky to record Snorri several times between Reykjavik and Seattle. You can watch his performance of “Mockingbird” from the KEX Hostel here and this performance of a brand new song live in the KEXP studio: