Melodic waves and building instrumentation defined and drove the Ásgeir concert at the Sinclair on Sept. 29th. You can’t help but to picture the nature described in the lyrics of the songs and the allure within it through the synths, the rhythm, and the harmonies. What’s truly incredible about the show itself is how well he adapts the songs on the record for a live set, as the sound is full, vibrant, and unbelievably intricate.
At just 20-years-old, the young singer-songwriter broke records in Iceland, as his debut record Dyrd í dauðathogn (‘In the Silence’), performed both in English and Icelandic, became the fastest selling debut album in the country. But what gives Ásgeir a truly unique sound is the marriage of traditional folk-harmonic melody and current rhythmic drums and beats. One musical choice does not seem to overpower the other: instead, they work together to forge new styles and paint new landscapes through the songs.
A song that distinctly captivated the show was the title track off of his second record, “Afterglow.” His writing has this astounding ability to capture his surroundings and make you envision them too. Everyone swayed to the sounds of “Shine across the earth tonight, shimmering over the ocean / Glow, it’s a glow / Glow, it’s a magic show / Gleaming up on the earth so bright / Moving along in slow motion.” If you close your eyes, you could picture it: it’s that simple.
Something else special to this set was the perfect use of three-part harmony in junction with the soundscapes built on synths during the set. It was the quintessential meshing of natural and synthetic sounds that completed the show sonically and added infinite amounts of layers. Ásgeir seems to have this ability to manipulate sounds to all fit together in odd ways, whether that be running his strat through a variety of pedals, building sounds on synths, or having a song rely on the drums and bass.
A crowd favorite came with the pure funkiness of “King and Cross” off of his debut record. This tune soared thanks to its matching of incredibly distinct melodies along with intricate, syncopated rhythm. Along with the sound itself, the lyrics are descriptive, a thru line of the set with image-based songs: “When the king takes sides, leaving moral minds; soldiers take their share. Nighthawks seem to sense that now is the time. Deep inside them burns the raging fire of life. He’ll take back what he owns,” as much of the Ásgeir canon seems to reflect his upbringing and his surroundings as inspiration.
It’s one thing to strip down your songs for a tour, as it can seem daunting to mimic studio recordings. But it’s a whole other story to take the time and musical energy to bring the songs to life on the stage, which is exactly what Ásgeir has done with this tour. Part of the experience is the pure awe of hearing and witnessing these records live and grow in the moment, as the intricate levels take you to other places, whether that be a nature setting, a childhood memory, etc. And that is what’s important about music like this: when you use images to drive songs, both through lyrics and music, you make records that are not only personal, but make the listener feel they have something to relate to.