Song of the Day: Snorri Helgason – Calling

photo by Owen Fiene

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 songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. This week, we present songs by artists performing the 2014 Iceland Airwaves Festival. Today’s featured song is “Calling” by Snorri Helgason from the 2013 album Autumn Skies on Records Records.

Snorri Helgason – Calling (MP3)

Listening to today’s Song of the Day, you probably won’t be thinking “Iceland” right off the bat. The plaintive opening harmonica lines, gentle strumming, twinkling keys and soothing vocals are all firmly rooted in American (and British) folk. But Snorri Helgason’s career has been decidedly Icelandic — that is, he’s sought to define himself on his own terms. While still a teen, he was performing with and writing songs for Sprengjuhöllin, a band that conquered Icelandic radio charts and produced several national hits. Despite their popularity, Snorri struck out on his own with a I’m Gonna Put My Name On Your Door, a gloriously folk-influenced album whose songs Sprengjuhöllin hinted at but whose English lyrics and Beatles-esque flourishes could be appreciated by wider audiences. We at KEXP caught up with him around the time of his second solo album, Winter Sun, produced by another KEXP fav, Sindri Már Sigfússon of Sin Fang and Seabear. We’ve since featured Snorri through a ( Song of the Day podcast ), a video premier, an acoustic session in Iceland, and in Seattle for the 2011 Reykjavik Calling showcase. Clearly, he’s long been a friend of KEXP.

On his new album, Autumn Skies, Snorri returns to a full band setup. Now joined by Sigurlaug Gísladóttir (Mr. Silla), Magnús Trygvason Elíassen (amiina, Moses Hightower, Tilbury, ADHD, etc.) and Guðmundur Óskar (Hjaltalín) — his friends and touring partners — Snorri adds a fuller richness and more depth to his songs. Today’s song, “Calling”, though, is one of the album’s most stripped down. As always, Snorri’s voice is the focus, but it’s the instrumental melodies by the band and the vocal harmonies with Silla that elevate his songwriting to new heights.

Snorri Helgason will perform with his band live on KEXP on Thursday, October 31, at 6AM PST. Find out more about our broadcast during Iceland Airwaves here and more about Snorri himself on his website and Facebook page. For now, here’s Snorri Helgason performing “The Morning Is the Loving Hour” live at KEXP in Seattle in 2011:

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