Song of the Day: Mr. Silla - Holding On

Iceland Airwaves, Song of the Day
02/10/2016
Jim Beckmann

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is "Holding On" by Mr. Silla from her 2015 self-titled debut on 12 Tónar.

Mr. Silla - Holding On (MP3)

If Mr. Silla has taught us anything, it's that good things come to those who wait. The Icelandic artist - who's not really a "Mr." at all but rather Sigurlaug Gisladóttir and a longtime member of Icelandic band múm - has been performing solo for quite a few years. We first met her in 2011 when KEXP recorded a session in her studio in Reykjavik during Iceland Airwaves Music Festival. She didn't have any prerecorded material of her own then, and she didn't in the years that followed, when we recorded her again in 2012 and in 2014. Each time we heard her, though, her songs took new shape. Now, finally, her self-titled debut is out and available on Iceland label 12 Tónar, and it's everything we hoped for while also sounding completely new.

Previously, Mr. Silla often performed with an all-star cast of musicians, including members of Kimono, Bob Justman and múm, for a rockin', jam-worthy sound, but more recently, Silla had stripped the band back to just her and another guitarist to accompany multilayered pre-recorded tracks, as in the last performance recorded of her. We finally got a true listen to what the debut might sound like when we premiered the first of what we hope to be many great videos from the new LP. Airy and haunting, the song "Breathe" seemed a "darkly alluring fantasy" made more so through director Thora Hilmarsdóttir's vision. The rest of the album, it turns out, evokes the same moody atmosphere and feels more intimate than we've ever heard from her, as Silla replaces bandmates with glitchy electronic production and makes irrestistable the breathy seduction of her voice. Today's featured song, the downbeat driven "Holding On", proclaims a confidence, both lyrically and musically, which is exactly what we've been hoping for in her debut. If her next album is as good as this, we'd wait the world over.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Silla has been nominated for album of the year in Iceland. While an American tour to follow it seems unlikely (but not impossible?), Mr. Silla herself has just been announced to perform this year's Iceland Airwaves festival in November (along with some other great artists), so get your tickets and go see her there! Until then, follow Mr. Silla on Facebook and watch the many recorded sessions with her on KEXP's YouTube channel, including this version of today's featured song as recorded at Kex Hostel during KEXP's 2014 broadcast:

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