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 DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Wanted 2 Say” by Samaris from their forthcoming album, Black Lights, due this summer on One Little Indian.
How much we love Samaris, you can easily count the ways. We’ve recorded the Icelandic trio several times over the past few years, both in Seattle and at Iceland Airwaves, and they’ve continually allured us with their dark, romantic downtempo vibe. On their two EPs (combined into one self-titled album) and their outstanding 2014 LP, Silkidrangar, producer Þórður Kári Steinþórsson and clarinetist Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir build exotic, frosty landscapes over which Jófríður Ákadóttir floats her breathy vocals. Though we English speakers can’t understand her lyrics, drawn exclusively and directly from 19th Century Icelandic poetry, we can easily intuit their essence. Today’s featured song, then, the first glimpse at the band’s forthcoming album, Black Lights, comes as a complete surprise.
Not just for the slang transnumeration in its title, “Wanted 2 Say” seems contrastingly contemporary. The song starts with 10 seconds of the ancient, otherworldly aura we have come to know, but a decidedly uptempo beat quickly kicks in to introduce the lyrics – for the first time ever – in English! No longer bound to a lit student’s chapbook, Jófríður is now free to explore concerns of today. “My thoughts were about Iceland and the nature, how it’s our most precious thing,” she says, of a concern recently echoed by Iceland’s quintessential artistic statesperson Björk, adding also that “the theme of the song became more about us writing and expressing our thoughts in English.” Clearly, in whatever language she chooses, her voice retains the same allure. Musically, the song delves deeper into pop tropes than ever before. Unlike former electronic experimentalists who now bathe in pure pop gold (like Grimes), and thanks to Þórður’s inventive beats and electronic modulations of Áslaug’s timeless reed-weaving, Samaris still leave us suspended between expectation and surprise.
You can expect the rest of Black Lights on the date of its release this summer via One Little Indian, where you can also pick up today’s featured song on vinyl. Prepare to be surprised with new information about Samaris and KEXP that we’re excited to share in the next month or so. Stay tuned with KEXP. Until then, keep up with the band on their website and Facebook page, and revisit their entrancing performance live in the KEXP studio last May: