Label: Self Released
Iceland sits in the Atlantic Ocean just two hours from Scotland. With a rich cultural heritage, and a remarkable landscape that is a photographer’s dream and with a few active volcanoes thrown in for good measure, the country has become increasingly popular with tourists in recent years. The amount of music that Icelanders produce would suggest that music is woven into their very DNA. Both traditional and cutting edge modern music is very much in abundance.
Jonina Aradottir comes from rural south eastern Iceland, and while living in that very dramatic and beautiful landscape she cultivated her own folk/rock sound. She studied at Iceland’s most prestigious vocal school before moving on to Denmark to study guitar and studio technique, and then to the Musician’s Institute of Los Angeles for further vocal studies and their Independent Artists Program.
This considerable training is very evident in the quality of her work, and following her first EP in 2013, her first full album of ten songs, ‘Remember’ has now been released. It’s a delightful mix of tracks, from radio friendly songs that hook the listener within a few bars with their bright rhythmic rock beat to beautifully introspective songs that are lyrics led. One song is in the Icelandic tongue which deserves special mention later.
The album begins with ‘It’s Time’. Turn up the volume as a tiny touch of Iceland’s volcanic energy was obviously absorbed by singer and band alike. The musicians on this album are completely top notch and Jonina has chosen her band well for the backing for each track is superb. Don’t turn the volume down yet, as the second song ‘Maybe Not the Time’ really kicks in with some terrific drumming and a real foot stomping rhythm. The fourth and title track ‘Remember’ is a terrific country-rock track that could get any audience up on floor dancing.
The second half of the album comes with a change in momentum and feeling with lyrical songs that merit careful listening. With the sound of gentle keyboards ‘Sailing Away’ begins with ‘Sometimes it doesn’t feel real… am I really at home or still out here? I’m travelling the world to fill up my soul… always ready to jump on a boat and start to row’. There’s a lot of feeling in the lyrics, and albums’ final song ‘You and Me’ is a masterclass in acoustic instrumentation and fine vocals.
One song, ‘Kaeri Vinur’ (Dear Friend) is sung in Jonina’s native Icelandic, and is a truly beautiful piece of music. Icelandic is a historic language that developed from the same Viking Old Norse that also had a big influence on the language of large parts of England, and also Newfoundland and Lowland Scotland. Icelandic has changed little through the centuries, yet with hundreds of Norse words still embedded in modern English anyone listening to ‘Kaeri Vinur’ will hear the words of a language that is a distant cousin to English, and still sounds similar how our ancestors would have spoken. As this superbly composed song drifts past the listener’s ears with its touch of shared history, Jonina uses her Icelandic landscape to echo the feelings within the song, ‘Wild mountain view, who asks me not to sleep, for inside I burn, I miss you… I need you’. I have truly lost count of the number of times I have listened to this song, and can highly recommend the album ‘Remember’ as an excellent introduction to the music of a remarkable island nation.