So I have this problem. ÍRiS has just released her debut album, Penumbra. One website recently said that she might have produced the best Icelandic album of the year, and I think that they might just be right.
The problem? I have gotten to know Iris over the past few months. She travelled to London to help me launch my book, Iceland, Defrosted at the Embassy of Iceland this summer, and then graciously helped me out when the band booked for the Reykjavík book launch failed to show. We’ve met for coffee, and she has counseled me on how to perform in public.
Ordinarily, of course, I’d just post a review and be done with it. But how can I do that, with someone I’d call a friend. With honesty. That’s the only way. Please find a review of Iris’s debut album, but with the disclaimer that I do know her personally.
First off, this album is crowd-funded (via the Icelandic site, Karolina Fund) and produced without the backing of a major record label in tow. Whilst this isn’t unusual in Iceland, sometimes a detectable drop in quality can be heard. That’s not the case here; Penumbra sounds excellent.
‘This Morning’ starts things off with its piano and strings, and ends with a surprising fuzz of feedback. Daybreak has definite jazz leanings and cocky piano to prove it, whereas ‘Sea Song’ might just be the standout track. It has beautiful, urgent piano and makes you have goose bumps. Goose bumps is a strange word, isn’t it?
‘Swiftly Siren’ has an eerie quality about it, that at once suits its murderous video, and provides a showcase for Iris’s sultry, elegant voice. Halfway through, she turns into Beth Gibbons from Portishead. It’s no bad thing.
‘Misturmóða’ is the only song here in Icelandic. It’s a compelling listen, piano and haunting strings with Iris’s vocals overlaying the whole thing wonderfully. ‘One Way’ is a fine way to end proceedings.
So there we are. A glowing, laudatory review of the debut album from Iris. Don’t forget that disclaimer, but remember this too—I meant every word.
Original review on Iceland Review Online.