Having taken 2020 and 2021 off due to the pandemic, the Iceland Airwaves festival returns this year, happening November 3-5. A slightly scaled down version of the festival, 2023 features 85 artists across three days at venues in downtown Reykjavik. While this year's fest includes a few big international artists -- including Mercury Prize winner Arlo Parks, Metronomy, and Amyl & the Sniffers -- Iceland Airwaves has always had a focus on discovery, with an emphasis on Icelandic artists. It's also a good excuse to check out Iceland and its many spectacular natural wonders, some of which are not too far outside the city. It's a fun festival. Passes and travel packages are still available.
With discovery in mind, we combed through the lineup and listened to the official playlist and came up with 17 artists we're excited to catch at Iceland Airwaves, with more than half the list made up of Icelandic artists of all shapes and sizes. Check out our picks and listen to the official Iceland Airwaves playlist below.
17 ARTISTS TO SEE AT ICELAND AIRWAVES 2023
There is no shortage of folk artists in Iceland but newcomer Arny Margaret, who hails from the sparsely populated Westfjords peninsula in the northwest, has cut through the haze with sublime songwriting and a gorgeous, emotive voice. She learned to play piano barely out of kindergarten, taught herself guitar, and has been in music school most of her young life. She's toured with Leif Vollebekk, just played some U.S. dates with Blake Mills around Newport Folk, and is signed to One Little Independent, home of Bjork. She released her debut EP in February of this year. Her debut album, they only talk about the weather, is out October 21.
Maker of our 18th favorite album of 2021, Brooklyn resident Arooj Aftab wowed a lot of people last year with her album Vulture Prince that also got her nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys. (She lost to Olivia Rodrigo but did win Best Global Music Performance for "Mohabbat.") Her blend of chamber folk, jazz, South Asian ghazal, reggae and other styles is totally unique, and whether she's playing a warehouse in Queens or the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur, Arooj always captivates.