Icelander Soffía Björg is an unusual lady but then she hails from an unusual country. This isn’t an EP as such. What she is doing is to release digitally all the tracks of her eponymous debut album, in three tranches of four songs, a sort of digital-only EP each time. Part 1 was released on 13 January, Part 2 – reviewed here – on 13 February and Part 3 will follow on 13 March with the 12-track physical album on 13 April. The album was produced by Ben Hillier, who’s worked with Elbow and Blur.
Björg has been around on the Icelandic scene for a while but with a regular job as a tour guide following a spell in higher education honing her musical craft, she and her band are taking it slow and low, to paraphrase one of the songs on this release, meaning not rushing headlong into the industry and keeping a low profile. While appearing regularly in Iceland they have only one recent foreign show to their credit, in the Netherlands this January.
The Soffía Björg band is a guitar one through and through, with no other instruments played typically other than percussion and it comprises the virtuoso Pétur Ben, bassist Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi, and unfussy drummer Kristofer Rodriguez Svonuson, all of whom feature in other Icelandic bands and who will be familiar to visitors to the annual Iceland Airwaves festival.
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Her lyrics demand close attention. On the first track, the folkish ‘The Road,’ she takes a road journey that is not only one back to her physical home but also to where she feels more comfortable in her own head after straying from the normal path and it is about how difficult that can be. It may be a reference to her musical journey, too. The song has almost a spaghetti western flavour to it.
‘Searching for You’ is a vehicle for Pétur Ben to demonstrate his mastery of the guitar, while Slow and Low is a lesson on how to build atmosphere between lead, rhythm and bass guitars, and Björg herself reaches a vocal intensity that would give Anna Calvi a run for her money. The song is particularly dramatic when played live.
Final track ‘Johnny’ is the most upbeat of the four, to an incessant semi-military beat as the subject of the song heads off, possibly to war. It hints at Soffía Björg’s ability to experiment and that will become evident on the next tranche of the album, which reprises The Beatles era in the catchy ‘I Lie.’
Apart from her terrific voice (which is not showcased quite so well on this selection) and her songwriting skills, she has a certain chemistry with her band, and particularly Pétur Ben, who produces some unique sounds while Ingibjörg purrs effortlessly through every track.
‘Soffía Björg’ is released on 13 April
The digital release summarised:
Part I – January 13, 2017
- Back & Back Again
Part II – February 13, 2017
- The Road
- Searching For You
- Slow & Low
Part III – March 13, 2017
- Indigo & Gold
- Silence the Voices
- I Lie