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Samaris: Five Essential Albums

by Kara Manning
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Over a year ago, the Reykjavík trio Samaris was cited by NPR Music as representing the "sound of young Iceland"  — likely younger than most since all three members were still teenagers, just under 20. The classically-trained schoolmates — Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir, Jófríður Ákadóttir and Þórður Kári Steinþórsson — have received an enthusiastic reception in their own country, winning a prestigious battle of the bands competition, Músíktilraunir, and playing the Iceland Airwaves festival last year.  

The songs on Samaris' two EPs, Stofnar falla and Hljóma Þú (You Sound), are delicate gems, driven by clarinet, electronic arrangements, lyrics gleaned from 19th and early 20th century Icelandic poets and singer Jófríður Ákadóttir's hushed vocals. A self-titled compilation of Samaris' EPs and additional remixes was finally released last week in the States and the UK via One Little Indian, a prelude to their official debut album which is expected later this year.

Intrigued by what outside elements might have led to Samaris' stormy sea of stillness on songs like "Góða Tungl" ("Good Moon"), The Alternate Side asked Jófríður Ákadóttir for her Five Essential Albums. Also watch the official video for "Góða Tungl" below.

CocoRosie, Noah's Ark
The sisters of CocoRosie opened my eyes to lo-fi music and taught me that s***ty is really pretty. On this album, they use unconventional instruments to create soundscapes over their fragile and delicate melodies. They also make incredibly strong poetic lyrics with beautiful metaphors.

Grouper, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
This album has such a crazy fuzzy sound; it puts you into trance. If it had a color it would be gray, like fog. It fits really well to [the] Northern Lights, if you come across them.

Joni Mitchell, Blue
I fell in love with Joni when i was 13 years old. She has lived in my heart since. This is my favorite album by her, but i also love Ladies of the Canyon. She makes songs that are so well written, they can be performed on any instrument and make sense. The songs on this album are so sad — i'm such a sucker for melancholic music — but still so sweet, they make you warm inside.

Uakti and Philip Glass, Aguas de Amazonas
The album that I listen to when i can't decide what i want to hear. It has steady beats [that] feel like heartbeats at times. The songs are named after rivers in the Amazon and they all flow through you, like meditation music.

Vashti Bunyan, Just Another Diamond Day
The songs I played for my baby sister when she was just a few months old, falling asleep in my bed. There is something so sublimely childish about this album, and Vashti's sleepy voice that caresses you in every song.

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