Song of the Day: Mugison – Áfall

photo by Renata Steiner

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 tracks, 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 “Áfall” by Mugison from the 2011 album, Haglél, on MP3)

Icelanders revere Mugison, which is at first surprising considering his well-dressed yet unkempt demeanor (something like a dapper mountain man) and his equally carefree yet productive life. His acclaim began with his 2004 album, Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music?, which won best album at the Icelandic Music Awards, and “Murr Murr,” from that album, won Song of the Year over Björk! “Monkey music,” by the way, means “popular music,” and the album answered its own question with its success. All this from merely a solo artist (named, actually, Örn Elías Guðmundsson) armed with just a guitar and a laptop. Mugison’s spreading notoriety granted him the opportunity to tour Europe and the US. It took three years, though, to record the follow up, as he was living in a village of about 100 people out in the Icelandic countryside, where the sun doesn’t shine for nine months. But it’s not like he was just hiding out. In that time, Mugison composed a couple of soundtracks, had a couple of kids and transitioned from a laptop project to a full on band. The resulting rock-centric, Mugiboogie, released on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, blew the doors off and won over many American fans.

Today’s featured song, though, comes from a different sort of album. On Haglél, Mugison turns a bit from the funky American and British blues rock that inspired previous albums more inwardly for an Icelandic audience. This is not to say that some of the songs don’t rock, but most of the album is layered, laid back and often orchestral… and this time, the lyrics are all in Icelandic! “Áfall” blasts in with a heavy rock riff, but soon the a smoother, lounge-like Mugison glides in, and a 60’s vibe dominates this psychedelic song. Other songs are more stripped down or feature a chorus or a western twang. While the American influences are still there, Haglél is a love song for Icelanders, one, though, that everyone can enjoy.

Right now, all is quiet on the Mugi-front. He’s been performing in Olso and will no doubt head back to Iceland for more shows. Check out his Facebook page and website for tour updates. For now, here’s Mugison performing live during KEXP’s broadcast at the KEX Hostel in Reykjavik during Iceland Airwaves ’11:

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