Melding classical and folk influences with lush vocals and acoustic instrumentation, Icelandic chamber pop outfit Árstíðir found immediate success upon the release of their chart-topping self-titled 2009 debut.
Working without label support, they remained popular in their home country over the next few years, releasing a 2011 follow-up, then gaining international attention when a 2013 video of them singing an a cappella Icelandic hymn at a German train station went viral on YouTube. Subsequent releases like 2015's Hvel and 2018's Nivalis saw Árstíðir adding occasional rock and electronic textures into their music.
Formed in Reykjavík in 2008 by the core trio of Daníel Auðunsson, Gunnar Már Jakobsson, and Ragnar Ólafsson, Árstíðir self-released their eponymous debut album the following year, landing a pair of hits on Icelandic National Radio and topping the nation's album charts. It was an unexpected success for a group of chamber folk newcomers with a moody acoustic sound. Fighting through a 2010 tour disrupted by travel-halting ash plumes from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, they returned to the studio with producer Ólafur Arnalds to record their follow-up, Svefns og vöku skil, which arrived in 2011. By this point, the band had grown to a sextet with the addition of cellist Jónas Jensson, pianist Jón Elísson, and violinist Karl James Pestka. The following year Árstíðir earned the honor of being the first Icelandic act to win the prestigious Eiserner Eversteiner European Folk Music Award based out of Plauen, Germany. While on a tour of Germany in 2013, the band was captured on video giving an impromptu a cappella performance of the Icelandic hymn "Heyr himna smiður" in in Wuppertal's Bürger Bahnhof train station. The stirring rendition went viral on YouTube, quickly notching millions of views, bringing Árstíðir widespread global attention.
To fund their next album, Árstíðir launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2014 and tripled their financial goal, allowing them to work with producer and multi-instrumentalist Styrmir Hauksson (Ásgeir, Of Monsters and Men, GusGus) at Reykjavík's renowned Orgelsmiðjan Studio. The resulting album, Hvel, was released in 2015 after which, the band toured the U.S. for the first time. For their next project, 2017's Verloren Verleden, Árstíðir joined forces with Dutch singer Anneke van Giersbergen (the Gathering) on a collaborative album of reimagined classical and traditional material. They returned in 2018 with Nivalis, their fourth proper studio album which continued to meld rock and electronic elements with their signature lush chamber folk sound. ~ Timothy Monger, Rovi