Gusgus – “Arabian Horse” (2011)


I experienced Gusgus for the very first time in mid-October, 2009, when they closed the final night of Iceland Airwaves at one of the coolest venues in the world (and sadly not part of Airwaves ’12….), NASA. See above for a photo I somehow miraculously captured with my point-and-shoot camera from the back of the venue. I’d never heard of Gusgus before that night, and I’d certainly never heard their music. But I was stunned by the on-stage presence and performance of Daniel August, and the great music put together by President Bongo and Biggi Veira. I was all in, and 24/7 was a regular on my iPod and something I tried to share with all my friends who were into checking out new music.

When I heard Gusgus had a new album coming out in 2011, I was cautiously excited. Holly and I had quickly picked up the past Gusgus catalog, and I was certainly looking forward to some new music by this great band. But I was nervous. Nervous because there is a tendency to not like the newest album by your favorite bands, especially bands as creative as Gusgus. What would they have in store for us? A huge departure from their earlier works? A country album? Who could be sure, but I’d been down this road enough times before to be worried. But it turns out I was worried for nothing.

Arabian Horse is the best album I’ve ever heard. Ever.

I think Daniel’s voice is amazing. Let’s get that out in the open first. But when you take a fantastic vocalist like this, and then add the immensely talented and uncannily complimentary sounds of Urdur Harkonardottir and Hogni Egilsson, you become convinced that Daniel is not a frontman who needs all the attention, but one who wants to surround himself with other amazing talents, and create music that showcases their skills as much if not more than his own.

Don’t believe me? Listen to “Deep Inside”, “Over”, “Within You”, and “Arabian Horse”. Ideally live, but if you can’t swing that, with some good headphones on. Simply put, that’s the best string of four songs on any album you’ll ever listen to. If you need convincing, watch this video of “Over” recorded live at Airwaves ’11, the very first show we caught during the festival:

Gusgus “Over”, Iceland Airwaves 2011

As we wonder why,
Why we didn’t try,
We didn’t try this time,
We didn’t even try,
Try to make things right,
This time,

Despite the jet lag and the enormous beer I got from the bar at the KEX Hostel, or maybe because of it, Gusgus’ 25 minute set completely owned me. And Egilsson wasn’t even there for this performance, not joining them until their big show at the art museum a few nights later. We were walking by the museum the day of that performance and could hear their rehearsal outside from the sidewalk, and it was good enough to make us stop for a couple of minutes and just listen.

I’m not sure what kind of music you listen to. But if you go into Arabian Horse with an open mind, you’ll be completely sucked in by the clarity and precision of the music and the absolute perfect blending of the vocals. I can’t even decide if Daniel is at his best as the lead, or when he performs as a backing vocalist.

The Allmusic review uses a great word to describe this album – “lush”. That’s exactly what it is. It’s also a double album that doesn’t get tired and worn out by the second record.

Check it out. You won’t regret it. I promise (but no money back guarantee…).

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