Icelandic musician Sigurlaug Gísladóttir has had her fingers in multiple creative pies over the years, having played in bands like Múm and Low Roar, but it’s her solo project Mr. Silla that she calls artistic home. After releasing a self-titled debut album way back in the wilds of 2015, 2019 marks the return of new music from the project, with an early 2019 single, Naruto (Say You Wanna Run Away). And now she’s released another, Gloria.
Gloria sees all Mr. Silla’s synth-pop charm channelling a stunner of a song, musically pretty from the bubbling little bassline to the delicate spiral of melodies, constructed to set each other off in a firework swirl. At the heart of all that is a deep, biting sadness that hits overwhelmingly as you go deeper into the song. Silla says:
“Gloria deals with the moment of realisation that a relationship is over and the contradicting inner dialogue that comes with not wanting to face it. There is a plea from the person singing with them selves to do what ever it takes to make it work because the reality is too heartbreaking. Then as the song progresses there is a call to the next person in line to show them the way to love again. Slowly realising that they have to find their own way and figure it out on their own. I wanted to have the music be an exciting counterpoint to the difficult subject to emphasise the denial aspect of the narrator about their situation. The sounds reflect celebration, and the feeling of epiphany after epiphany in rapid succession give a sense of urgency to the message and at the same time makes the lyrics sound of desperation to persuade yourself”
Glora also comes with a video from Special-K, that sees Silla take the viewer on a trip around Iceland and free the country from the grip of external eyes and its Instagram sheen. Katrín Helga Andrésdóttir tells the story about Iceland’s recent transformation from small, quiet country to a tourist’s fairytale land.
“I was 20 years old when I really started to sense the drastic change. It was like having been an only child my whole life, but suddenly being stuck with 20 siblings. Up until that point I was spoiled with having the magical nature all to myself, used to endless views of nothing (oceans, deserts, lava) and no-one on the horizon to take away the overwhelming feeling of my infinite tininess in the universe. Then, little by little, the souvenir shops started taking over the main street, houses were torn down to build hotels and before I knew it, we were outnumbered. In the café where I worked in 2014, my main job started becoming giving out tourist info and giving directions to lost people in colourful raincoats. When I was 19 I went to a hot spring near Reykjavík late at night and was so alone I was actually quite scared. Two years later, when I went to the same hot spring, around a 100 cars were parked in the parking lot. With my background as an ‘only child’ in this sense, I had difficulty with this new lifestyle of having to share.
And even more so, having become sort of a tourist attraction myself. “Oh my god, are you a local? Do you believe in elves?” We, the locals, were becoming Minnie Mouses and Cinderellas in DisneyLand – mythical fictional creatures in a made up, fake universe. The Icelandic nature was turned into a commercial product that the airlines and hotel owners could profit from. And not just them. Only a few years before, a lot of people had never heard about Iceland. When I told cab drivers in foreign countries where I was from, they’d just assume I meant Ireland or Islam (which would sometimes give me a discount). Now, being from the fairytale-like Iceland gives me privilege. Cute boys in clubs around the world find me exotic and being from here gives me an advantage when promoting my music and art. Even this piece is an example of this.
It’s understandable that we Icelanders have taken advantage of this, squeezing everything we can out of the Icelandic stereotype for our own benefit, but it’s also really off-putting. Countless music videos show us viking-like people on horses, riding in wild Icelandic nature etc. We didn’t want this to be one of those videos. We didn’t want the epic cliché stuff, we wanted to show a low key, uneventful grey day, coloured by the relationship between the people in question. I’m aware that I’m still using clichés, like the DV camera for nostalgic effect and the fact that the video takes place in a small town and in nature, but I hope it gives people a new, less commercial point of view, something that feels more authentic and serves as an appropriate backdrop for Silla’s charm.”
Gloria is out now, and Mr. Silla’s new album Hands On Hands is out on September 26.