Song of the Day: Pétur Ben – Cold War Baby

Pétur Ben in his rehearsal space / photo by Jim Bennett

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. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Cold War Baby” by Icelandic artist Pétur Ben from the 2012 self-released album God’s Lonely Man.

Pétur Ben – Cold War Baby (MP3)

Maybe it’s a symptom of the proximity of island life, but sarcasm, and all its distancing effect, is hard to find in contemporary Icelandic art, culture and communication, especially compared to in the U.S., where we like our big yards, our own ideas and our (please stay out of my) personal space. American hipsters usually think a song that lacks irony can’t be trusted for being too earnest, too vulnerable, and too close, but an Icelandic songwriter will often find the honest approach more immediate and affecting. That’s right, vikings are not afraid to hug. I’m generalizing, of course, and maybe half-joking, but Pétur Ben is exactly the kind of artist who insists you join the intimacy of his confessional world. Right away, you’re hooked by the beckoning call of “Cold War Baby,” today’s featured song, as it pulls you into a conflict right at home (“Stay clear of the living room frontier/Your enemy’s under the chandelier”), draws you out into the world at large (“I’ve been wrestling with winter all year/The days die before they open their eyes”) and then directs you back into Pétur Ben’s own self (“Place your war inside me/There’s a place for us in the infinity/You’ve got nothing else to do”). It’s hard not to feel like you’ve joined a life, if only for just over four minutes — that’s the power of sincerity, lost on too many songwriters today.

“Cold War Baby” comes from Pétur Ben’s long-awaited, self-released second album. Though it’s been six years in the making, God’s Lonely Man is undoubtedly worth the wait and despite its late 2012 release, has been claimed by many as one of the best albums of the year. Find out more about Pétur Ben on his Facebook page. The album has yet to be released outside of Iceland, but you can pick up a digital copy of it at Gogoyoko. For now, here’s the title track to the album:

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