On The Verge
Discovered at Norway’s by:Larm festival
Orchestrated Pop Power
With the success of Björk, Sigur Rós, múm and new chanteuse Emiliana Torrini, it’s plausible that there might some musical mojo in the water of Iceland. Add rising stars Hjaltalín to that argument. Formed in 2004 in the country’s capital, the seven-piece band describes itself as “pop” according to guitarist/singer Högni Egilsson but “orchestrated and crafted in a fashion that keeps it fresh and alive.” With an ever-present bassoon and violin alongside more traditional instrumentation, the band’s sound is big, but regimented like an orchestra (it even has a tune called “Debussy”). What’s more, while the band sings on most every song—often times in English—it frequently relies upon outside writers for the lyrics so it can focus on the compositional aspects. “The text is usually derived from the music,” confirms Egilsson, noting that, “The English language has infiltrated our culture very abruptly in recent decades, so the language is not as foreign as you might think.” The music, driven by a tempered but propulsive backbeat, is often unabashedly triumphant and celebratory like a cherubic Arcade Fire, and at times, strikingly akin to the English brother-sister quartet The Magic Numbers. At work on its sophomore effort due this fall, Hjaltalín hopes to make inroads stateside similar to those of fellow well-received countrymen.
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