Music Lists
7:32 am
Sat December 31, 2011

The Year In Pop — From Iceland And Lebanon

Originally published on Thu January 12, 2012 8:14 pm

Whether you wanted to or not, you probably heard the songs that ruled the U.S. charts this year. Weekends on All Things Considered is exploring hits from top pop hot spots around the world. In November, music journalists from Hong Kong and Senegal weighed in on the year in music. Now, guest host Rebecca Sheir finds out what's popular in Reykjavik and Beirut by talking to critics Matthías Magnússon and Samir Wahab. They each pick three songs that best represent the music scenes in their cities.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTY ROCK ANTHEM")

LMFAO: (Singing) Every day I'm shufflin'.

REBECCA SHEIR, HOST:

So that's what's been hot here in America this year. And I, for one, cannot stop singing...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTY ROCK ANTHEM")

SHEIR: (Singing) Party rock is in the house tonight...

OK. We can't leave you hanging like that. It could be a long night. So how about a sample of music that's been high on the charts in other parts of the world? Here are two music critics, both living far away from the Top 40 tunes of our FM dial, to tell us what they're listening to in their neck of the woods.

MATTHIAS MAGNUSSON: Hello. My name is Martin. I'm a radio host in Reykjavik, Iceland. I host a daily music show called "Popland," and I also DJ on the weekends.

SHEIR: Using the name DJ Matthias Magnusson. And then we have...

SAMIR WAHAB: Hey. This is Sam Wahab from Beirut, Lebanon. I run a website called scoopcity.com, which features local talent from all over Lebanon.

SHEIR: All right. So first, let's hear what's been hot in Iceland this year.

MAGNUSSON: The first song I want to play you is a song called "Stingum Af," which is a song by Icelandic artist Mugison. And it's probably the most popular song in Iceland for the whole of 2011.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STINGUM AF")

MAGNUSSON: And Mugison, he wrote this song after his niece died. And his niece had a small farm in the countryside in Iceland where he used to spend his childhood. And that song is basically just about childhood and that feeling that you can just elope, which is stingum af in Icelandic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STINGUM AF")

MAGNUSSON: This next song is called "Brostinn Strengur," which you could translate as a broken string.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BROSTINN STRENGUR")

MAGNUSSON: This is the title track of Lay Low's new album. She recorded the whole album on like an old 16-track mixer and all on tape like the old way. And all the lyrics are old Icelandic poems by female poets.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BROSTINN STRENGUR")

MAGNUSSON: The last song I want to play you here from Iceland is from a band called Of Monsters and Men. It's a song called "King and Lionheart."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KING AND LIONHEART")

OF MONSTERS AND MEN BAND: (Singing) Taking over this town, they should worry. But these problems aside, I think I taught you well. That we won't run and we won't run and we won't run...

MAGNUSSON: Of Monsters and Men won the yearly battle of the bands here in Iceland in 2010 and have been building a huge fan base.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KING AND LIONHEART")

BAND: (Singing) His crown lid up the way as we moved slowly, pass the wondering eyes of the ones that were left behind. Though far away, though far away, though far away we're still the same, we're still the same, we're still the same.

MAGNUSSON: Of Monsters and Men, they don't sound like any other band in Iceland. That's the beauty about the Icelandic music scene. There isn't exactly any band rhythm. You don't get a band like them and then you get 10 or 20 new bands all kind of sounding like Of Monsters and Men. Everybody kind of tries to do their own stuff because the music scene isn't that big and you don't want to look and sound exactly like the guy right next to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KING AND LIONHEART")

OF MONSTERS AND MEN: (Singing) 'Cause you're my king and I'm a lionheart.

SHEIR: That's "King and Lionheart" by Of Monsters and Men, just one of the recommendations from DJ Magnusson. Now, to Beirut, where our local music critic Sam is on the scene.

WAHAB: The first band I'm going to talk about is Adonis. These guys are a folk rock band who sing in Arabic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAW L BALADIYYI")

WAHAB: They just released a video of their single called "Daw L Baladiyyi," which means streetlight. And the good thing about the video is they take black and white photos of pre-civil war Lebanon and go to those exact same locations right now and they hold up the photo, and it's a nice contrast of where we were and where we are.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAW L BALADIYYI")

WAHAB: So the next band I'm going to talk about is a group called Zeid and the Wings. They're a band that started last year and have released an album just recently called "Asfeh," which means the storm, which is also the title track of the album which you're listening to right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ASFEH")

WAHAB: An interesting thing about Zeid and the Wings is when you check out their album, you'll see that it's got everything from Arabic folk to reggae to rock and to electro. And the vocal harmonies, seeing as you have three female backup vocalists, it's a really nice mix.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ASFEH")

WAHAB: The last band we're going to talk about is called Lazzy Lung. And these guys are Lebanon's new rock alternative.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONSTANDBY")

WAHAB: So this Lazzy Lung track is called "Onstandby." Lazzy Lung is a really good radio-friendly pop band that actually has a message, and they sing in English. And that's very rare for most bands here in Lebanon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONSTANDBY")

LAZZY LUNG: (Singing) Well, I got this thing I can't fix, and I don't know why. Seems I can't recall any of the night, oh why. Time wasted (unintelligible) again, oh, who's this here beside me? Oh, here we go again.

WAHAB: So Lazzy Lung recently won an award, and they'll be making their way to Los Angeles to meet with Capitol Records and represent Lebanon sometime next year. And they're definitely an incredible live band that, you know, you should watch out for.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONSTANDBY")

LUNG: (Singing) I got a girl got me going on, going on, going on...

SHEIR: That's the song "Onstandby" by Lazzy Lung, recommended to us by music writer Samir Wahab in Beirut, Lebanon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONSTANDBY")

LUNG: (Singing) Going on...

SHEIR: You can hear this song and more pop music from Iceland and Lebanon at our website, npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONSTANDBY")

LUNG: (Singing) Left out again... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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