Sometimes light emerges from the darkest of places. Sometimes great discoveries are made in the most unlikeliest of settings. Indie four-piece Kaleo formed in their home country of Iceland in 2012 (naming themselves after the word for “The Sound” in Hawaiian) and quickly found a fan base, playing festivals and releasing singles by themselves until the biggest record label in Iceland, Sena, signed them to a deal in fall 2013. They recorded their self-titled debut album in just six weeks, resulting in five #1 singles and a Gold record, in addition to slots at multiple festivals around Europe. But the best was still yet to come, as Spring 2014’s single ‘All The Pretty Girls’ caught wider international attention, leading to a deal with Atlantic Records in the US. The band relocated to Austin, Texas, and they have recently begun working with producer Mike Crossey (Jake Bugg, Arctic Monkeys) in London to record an EP, due later this year.
The band has been described as indie pop, indie rock, indie folk, and a culmination of the three, but it is not hard to find strands of Americana in their work. In fact, on songs like ‘Broken Bones’, taken from their debut album, a swampy jaunt guides us through a foreboding tale set deep in the heart of the American south. Their music is interesting, extremely proficient and very enjoyable, swaying gently between styles without jolting the listener too abrasively between states of mind. They are another example of the positive aspect of a perceived mono-genre (of course, there are plenty of cases to the contrary), and will fit in very well with indie haven Austin.
But Kaleo have a wider importance beyond refusing to settle in one subgenre. For one, they are bringing the music of Iceland to an imminently larger audience, providing increased exposure for bands of their ilk. It marks a point where more and more country and Americana bands head to the Nordic countries of Europe, and more and more of the native bands take the opposite trip (First Aid Kit being arguably the most famous example). It is a good lesson to those on American soil that sometimes the best (and most authentic-sounding) music is hiding, tucked away around the other side of the world. Not for much longer.