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 “Föstudagurinn Langi” by Úlfur Úlfur from the 2012 self-released album Föstudagurinn Langi.
If you haven’t realized by now, Icelandic musicians can play pretty much any kind of music (this week, we’ve featured a variety of sounds on our Song of the Day podcasts), but you might still be thinking to yourself, “Icelandic hip-hop? No way!” Believe me, I was in the same boat the first time I saw Úlfur Úlfur perform. But they were barely through their first song when I realized, these guys are really freaking good! Of course, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, and unless you speak Icelandic yourself, you won’t know either when you listen to today’s podcast song. But a good hip hop song is as much about the production and delivery as the words themselves, if not more so, and Úlfur Úlfur deliver on the infectious “Föstudagurinn Langi.”
Úlfur Úlfur, or “wolf wolf” (as in “cry wolf”), grew out of an earlier project, Bróðir Svartúlfs (“Brother Black Wolf”), formed by current rappers Arnar Freyr and Helgi Sæmundur in northern Iceland. Where as Bróðir Svartúlf — more of a traditional band with guitar, bass, drums, etc. — sought to be “a mixture of Sigur Rós and Rage Against the Machine” (and were so good they won Músíktilraunir, Iceland’s yearly battle of the bands, in 2009), Úlfur Úlfur — a trio with DJ Þorbjörn Einar — falls more in line with the vocal and production work of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Their debut, Föstudagurinn Langi (“Good Friday”), blends electronic textures and piano, syncopated dance beats, and quick flowing lyrics in a way that, if you weren’t listening to the words closely, you’d think was as likely to come out of Seattle as Iceland.
You can listen to their debut for yourself on Gogoyoko and hear them live on Friday, November 2nd, at 11:30AM PST during KEXP’s broadcast from Iceland Airwaves at KEX Hostel in Reykjavik. For now, here’s an audience shot video of Úlfur Úlfur performing today’s featured song live outside in July for the KEXPORT show presented at and by KEX Hostel: