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. This week, we spotlight Icelandic artists in anticipation of KEXP’s broadcast from Iceland Airwaves next week. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Leyndarmál” by Ásgeir Trausti from the 2012 album Dýrð í dauðaþögn on Sena.
A celebrated new artist in the Iceland scene, Ásgeir Trausti might not have taken the path laid before him by his father, a poet, and brother, a guitarist and singer for another KEXP favorite in Iceland, Hjálmar, if it weren’t for an injury. As a teen, Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson trained as a javelin thrower but eventually traded athletics for music and turned his classical guitar instruction to indie rock gold. His influences are clear. Dýrð í dauðaþögn, his top-selling Icelandic debut, immediately recalls the heavenly vocals of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and light electronic touch of British glitch pop sensation James Blake. His Icelandic lyrics, though, are an easy distinction, and to those of us non-Icelandic speakers sound as poetic as they must really be. In fact, Ásgeir Trausti’s father wrote most of the lyrics. His childhood friend and sometime collaborator, Julius Róbertsson, wrote lyrics to a few others, including the album’s title track. The songs themselves, though, are all Trausti: light, airy, with a lounge-y groove and overall vibrancy that elevates it above the standard folk-rock fare. It’s no wonder the album sold out on the week of its release in Iceland.
Dýrð í dauðaþögn is currently available only in Iceland and online, but if a U.S. release isn’t in the works for this version of the album, the American singer-songwriter John Grant, now living in Reykjavik, is attempting his own translation of the song lyrics. Until then, enjoy the album in its native Icelandic.
If you were lucky enough to catch Ásgeir Trausti performing with Julius Róbertsson during our 3rd Annual Reykjavik Calling event at Neumos on October 12, you witnessed a rare event: his first public performance in the United States. If not, you can watch our videos from their in-studio performance below and wait for more when we film him again next week during the Iceland Airwaves festival and bring even more new artists for you to discover.