Hollywood screenwriters couldn't have scripted the musical ascent of Icelandic phenom Ãsgeir any better. Dýrð í dauðaÃ¾ögn, an album the 21-year-old recorded just for fun, became an overnight sensation in his home country. Buoyed by haunting, shimmering folktronica textures—and driven by lyrics penned by his dad, a retired school principal—the record became the best-selling debut record ever in Iceland, beating out even superstars such as Björk and Sigur Rós.
"I thought the album was just going to sell 300 copies to people from my hometown, and my family and friends," Ãsgeir says. "I had no expectations whatsoever about anything. But my whole life was turned around in just a few weeks."
Still, the fairy tale didn't end there. The ubiquity of Dýrð í dauðaÃ¾ögn caught the attention of musician John Grant, and the one-time Midlake collaborator immediately recognized Ãsgeir's musical talent. "He has a knack for melody and gorgeous harmonies, coupled with an amazing sense of rhythm and virtuosity on acoustic guitar," Grant says. However, he also saw plenty of beauty in the album's lyrics—a poetic collection touching on things such as nature, fantastical creatures, weather and old short stories—and ended up translating them into English for the international version of the album, titled In The Silence.
Produced by Gudmundur Kristinn Jonsson, In The Silence also loses nothing in translation emotionally. The hope-filled album bursts with warm acoustic guitars, jubilant horns and majestic piano, recalling Bon Iver, Mew, Kings Of Convenience and James Blake. Ãsgeir's angelic falsetto and soul-rich voice lends optimism and wise-beyond-his-years insights to the electric guitar-laden surge "Torrent" and twinkling title track. Meanwhile, pulsating electronic beats drive the more subdued "Going Home" and the light discopop touches of "King and Cross."
Since its release, In The Silence is resonating with fans on a deep emotional level that's quite unique. "I’ve heard extraordinary stories," Ãsgeir says. "People have come up to me and said that this album has gotten them through something really difficult in life. That’s amazing to hear." Humble and unassuming, Ãsgeir is still trying to get used to affecting people in such a deep way with his art—as well as adjusting to his newfound fame and musical stardom.
"I didn’t really know if I was ready for this change at the time," he says. "I really had to think about whether I wanted to release an album worldwide, because I knew that I would have to be touring a lot if I was going to do it. But in the end, I thought, 'If I don’t do it now, I’ll probably never, ever get a chance like this again.'"