The topic of youth has always been at the forefront of the rhetoric when talking about Icelandic artist Ásgeir. The words “at just 20 years old” are frequently used as a marker to describe the magnitude of the accomplishment of releasing Iceland’s biggest-selling debut album of all time, 2012’s In the Silence, at such a young age. And it is impressive. But, as with any young artist who receives a significant amount of fanfare and focus on their age, eventually, he’ll no longer be young. He’ll just be an average-age musician releasing music. No more shock and awe will be put on “how could a young person be this talented?!”
Perhaps, that’s a relief to Ásgeir seven years later, now the ripe old age of 27. No more constant interview questions focusing on his age. No more pitting him against other artists based on his peer group. Or, perhaps, he could be experiencing a loss of identity. Or an added pressure now that his work will be based purely on its content, without any clemency given to juvenility.
Or, perhaps, I’m overthinking it. Either way, the topic of youth appears to be at the forefront of Ásgeir’s mind with the debut single from his forthcoming record Bury the Moon. Titled “Youth,” the song is about childhood, with the lyrics being yet another collaborative project between Ásgeir and his father Einar Georg Einarsson. The nearly 80-year-old poet, retired teacher, and Ólafur Arnalds collaborator has been integral to Ásgeir’s music, penning many of the Icelandic lyrics since the beginning of the project.
“I’ve always been fascinated with how my father writes,” Ásgeir explains in a press release for the record. “I think the lyrical side of the album is, at times, a bit more personal for me now, because my Dad and I did it together. We spent a lot of time together."
Perhaps, it’s that juxtaposition - old and young - that has made the music Ásgeir’s music so timeless. That combination of the quite young, without the experience of life wearing them down and making them jaded, and the quite old, past the point of caring about trivial matters and able to see the big picture of what’s important in life, seems ripe for poetic and profound material.
“Do you recall the things that used to give us joy?” Ásgeir asks in the opening lines. He goes on to clarify, “When our imagination could take us anywhere,” eliciting a resounding nod from the universally nostalgic lyrics. Further on, the lyrics hit the heartstrings harder with lines like, “Appearing in my mind now/ Pictures from the past/ I won’t forget the years/ When boundless love and joy/ Lifted all our young hearts.”
The music video for the song focuses on a man wrestling with some strong and tragic emotions. Parked at a dark and chilly beach, he catches a glimpse of a woman running past his car. Through the lens of a mirror that holds sentimental value, he’s able to view a young, blonde woman in white that he seems to have once known. Thick, silver glitter tears streak her face. What happens, or has happened, between them, we may never know, as images of billowing smoke, fire, and water fill the frames of the rest of the clip.
“‘Youth’ is about childhood memories,” Ásgeir tells KEXP. “It was recorded in the fall of 2018 and is the first single from my new album Bury the Moon - I'm happy that KEXP are the first ones to play it in the US.”
Bury the Moon, and its Icelandic counterpart Sátt, is Ásgeir’s third full-length record, following 2017’s Afterglow. The album was made amid heartbreak, with the Icelandic musician pulling a Justin Vernon and retreating to a cabin in the countryside for a winter of solitary rumination and music-making. He brought only his guitar, a small keyboard, and a simple recording setup.
“I’ve always had this longing to go somewhere on my own,” Ásgeir says in a press release. “I think it was really good to go there and just think about music, and have no distractions whatsoever.”
Bury the Moon will be out February 7 via One Little Indian. American musician and polyglot John Grant assisted, yet again, on translating the lyrics to English. Ásgeir has also announced a full UK/EU/US tour behind the record with a date in Seattle on Friday, March 6 at the Neptune.
Below, check out the Bury the Moon album art, read the full tour dates, and watch Ásgeir’s 2014 KEXP in-studio session.
It seemed like just yesterday that Icelandic singer/songwriter Ásgeir was in Seattle and sitting on a park bench next to Kurt Cobain's house on Lake Washington. Just over a year ago, he was performing from his glorious debut, Dýrð í dauðaþögn, and revealed that he had been working with U.S. born,...
Concluding the KEXP broadcast live at KEX Hostel for Iceland Airwaves 2013 is Icelandic singer-songwriter Ásgeir. His father is a poet and his brother a musician (in another Icelandic favorite, Hjatalin). He's not short on any of the family talent, and lucky for his listeners, an adolescent injur...
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 DJs think you should hear. This week, we present songs by a...