KEXP Live at Iceland Airwaves 2017, Day 1: Sóley

Iceland Airwaves
Katy McCourt-Basham
Photos by Jim Bennett

Next on the Iceland Airwaves broadcast live from Kex Hostel was Icelandic musician Sóley. She's a long-time KEXP favorite, having already played the Airwaves broadcast four times (in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015) as well as an intimate Kex dormitory performance in 2013. Aside from her popular solo work, she was also a member of notable mid-2000’s Icelandic band Seabear. Sóley's music is beautiful, but trends toward eerie, as her breathy voice drifts over the piano, with a distinct softness that straddles the line between soothing and unsettling, and can shift dramatically depending on the context (in the way that clowns, stories, and other child-focused things can be wonderful or creepy, depending on their framing). Her third record, “Endless Summer,” was released earlier this year, and shows quite a lot of artistic development since 2012’s “We Sink”. This record feels more polished, more full, but in a subtle way—with rich harmonies and the inclusion of an accordion and more strings—all while maintaining her distinctive style. In addition to this year’s strong release, Sóley is also working on a collaborative project with former Seabear bandmate Sindri Már Sigfússon (Sin Fang) and Örvar Smárason (Múm) in which they compose and release one song per month for all of 2017, each a unique combination of their distinct but complementary songwriting styles.

Kex Hostel began to fill long before the set began, with locals and tourists alike eager to see the Airwaves mainstay. Sóley opened with "Devil," a string-laden tune that is both ominous and cinematic. Though Sóley informed the audience that she's recovering from a lost voice, we would have never known, her voice was as clear and lovely as ever. "Úa," named after Sóley's daughter, highlights the difficulty of frequently leaving her child to tour. The piano tinkling like a music box, the song is mournful, but feels hopeful as well. The stories in Sóley's songs read like fairy tales, but in the grim direction of a Hans Christian Anderson story. She ended the set with "Endless Summer" the eponymous track from this year's release. Her hands drift effortlessly over the piano, producing a full, glittering sound that mimics the ebbing and flowing of water. The song is vivid, but restrained, bewitching the audience to the last exquisite note.

Next on the broadcast is Icelandic electronic duo GusGus, playing at 6pm locally, and 11am PST/2pm EST, be sure to catch it on-site, on air, or online!

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