Music ’round the Arctic Circle (to watch)

By Ryan G

If you want to find some true gems making music. Look in the fringes. I mean, really look. You might already be aware of the myriad of names making music in the land of the midnight sun (Iceland acts Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men, or perhaps the robust Scandinavian metal scene). But what about alt-country in northern Canada? Indigenous synthpop? EDM seeped in regional tradition? Midwest emo in northern Russia? Dive in with our list of Music Round the Arctic Circle to Watch, below:

The Naysayers (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada; Alternative)

“Yesterday” feels like the north came to me without chasing out the warmth that was in Ohio today. It’s a bit forlorn but welcome all the same. This is the sort of act that has cross-generational appeal. Operatic vocals are a little unexpected but translate well. -RG

Zillion (Wasilla, Alaska, USA, ????)

Sometimes a press release gets sent your way with a description so compelling you can’t really think of a way to use it cleverly. So here it is, verbatim: “Not much grows north of the Arctic Circle, except dreams and psychosis. Born to an Alaskan drug house protected by a pet wolf, Zillion nurtured both.” This sound is indeed genreless, existing in some bizarro cinematic realm between metal, EDM and something else entirely. It seems there’s quite a spectacle being planned by this artist. -RG

The Jerry Cans (Nunavut, Canada, Folk / Alt Country)

While the northern reaches might not be the most populous, The Jerry Cans are proof of the affinity of creatives even in desolate places. Brandishing the dying Inuktitut language and traditional throat singing, the band crafts surprisingly-catchy, modern songs with violin and powerful melodic hooks. -CG

RIIT (Panniqtuuq, Nunavut, Canada, Synthpop)

Who knew AWOLNATION’s “Sail” could be interpreted in such a dark, foreboding, yet calming manner? RIIT, apparently. The production is something that creeps up on me and gives me the creeps at the same time. The Inuktitut lyrics of “ataataga” have sparked an interest in another corner of the world. I’m now in one of those moods where I wish I could travel everywhere and experience every bit of genre fusion I can! -RG

Beatrice Deer (Nunavut Canada, Singer-Songwriter)

Beatrice Deer chants heartwarming, calming tracks from her base in Nunavut. She uses a mix of English, French, and Inuktitut, and while you might not recognize the lyrics on all of her songs, the heart behind them transcends language. -CG

Angela Amarualik (Nunavut Canada, Indie Pop)

This indie-pop artist takes a bit of a turn-of-the-century approach, with a style reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson, Michelle Branch, and Nelly Furtado. And while some production nuances add an inherent sense of modernity to her songs, there’s an undeniable sense of humility underlying these songs. Add in bits of throat singing as a rhythmic pulse and the result is a style that bridges the past and present seamlessly. -CG

Kometa (Norilsk Russia, Drum and Bass)

Electronic instrumental is a genre I rarely dabble with. What can I say? I like my guitars. Even so, Kometa crafts some powerful drum and bass arrangements that have the right mix of crunch and grime to keep things interesting. Expect a decent amount of wobble, so you’ll want to listen on good speakers or headphones for an optimal experience. -CG

DJ Shub (Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada, Producer/EDM)

Billboard wrote in late 2020 that DJ Shub is “using music as a weapon.” A bold proclamation for the time of COVID, to be sure. But a few seconds into listening to DJ Shub, you’ll understand. The fusion of tribal chanting (the real thing – no appropriation here) with glitchy bass drops is about as cutting as it gets. How can you not get hype? -RG

СТОК (Norilsk Russia, Experimental Rap)

There’s something about Russian rap that hits harder. Pairing an already-emotional style with a language with a mix of “harder” syllables creates an intense listening experience. Even though CTOK’s instrumentals are pretty laid-back, there’s an undeniable haunting quality to these songs. While the vocals could be mixed a bit better, this is still a fairly new project and certainly one with promise. -CG

¡создатель! (Norilsk Russia, Midwest Emo)

It feels odd to describe a band leagues from Western society as Midwest emo, but it seems to best encapsulate the vibe best. These songs are laced with angst, punk energy, and plenty of fun melodic bits. While a translation of the band’s latest album includes several self-deprecating remarks, I certainly hope they continue making music – they certainly have potential for a cross-over audience overseas. -CG

Cold Mailman (Bodø Norway, Indie Pop)

Norwegian retro-pop act Cold Mailman feels like an odd convalescence of Mew and 80s chart toppers. Unlike a number of bands on the list, all of the lyrics here are in English – and they’re certainly poetic as well. Their versatile, middle-of-the-road approach makes them a powerful playlistable band.   -CG

Kråkesølv (Bodø Norway, Indie Rock)

Fans of Keane or Copeland stateside will find much to enjoy with this act. On the heels of their latest album, the band flexes their penchant for sentimental indie ballads. Although some of their songs top a million streams, they’re arguably still undiscovered on a larger scale. -CG

Tarsius (Bodø Norway, Progressive Rock)

Mix the vocals of Metallica with instrumental segments that oscillate between sea shanty, orchestra, ska, and swing and the result is fairly incomparable. Tarsius is an odd band, but most assuredly in an endearing manner. -CG

Suotana (Lappi Finland, Melodic Death Metal)

It’s been years since I’ve listened to this style, but arguably it has aged much better than metalcore has stateside. Suotana showcase immense technical prowess over sprawling, high-octane death metal. -CG

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