Despite it’s remoteness and small, homogenous population, Iceland’s musical output contains a considerable amount of diversity, e.g., Björk’s experimental electronic pop, Sigur Rós’ sweeping grandeur, Ólafur Arnalds and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s elegant modern classical, Sólstafir’s blistering post-metal, and so on.
Compared to all of those artists, however, Kiriyama Family’s soulful, retro pop can seem a bit… conventional. But then you actually start listening to Waiting For… and several things become readily evident.
First, the Family knows their way around solid hooks and grooves, something that’s immediately noticeable on the album’s first singles (e.g., “About You,” “Apart”). Second, the album’s production is topnotch, resulting in a lush, enjoyable listen. A lot occurs in these songs, but everything is balanced, from the snappy percussion to the ‘80s-influenced Radio Dept.-esque synth-work. Finally, the album’s highlight is the fiery vocals of newcomer Hulda Kolbrúnardóttir, whose sensual voice is great at both harmonizing (“Apart”) and taking the lead (“Light Years Away”), and positively soars on “Innocence.”
Perhaps cheekily, Kiriyama Family describes their music as a blend of “yacht rock, dream pop, and Jean Claude Van Damme movie soundtrack.” That description might induce some eye-rolling, but it’s fairly apropos. There’s a definite and airily retro sense to these songs (e.g., “Chemistry”), but they also have just enough quirkiness and energy to keep them from feeling like slavish exercises in nostalgia.
Put simply, Waiting For… is ample proof that Iceland’s music scene is as fertile and vital as ever.