Is it Good or is it Garbage – Iceland’s Kaleo

When you think of bluesy folk influenced music, odds are that Iceland isn’t the first place you think of for those sorts of bands. However, the Icelandic band Kaleo (which means ‘voice’ or ‘sound’ in Hawaiian. Yes, I said Hawaiian and that information is verified) has been steadily gaining (international) attention in just that genre.

Those unfamiliar with Kaleo, in name, have probably heard some of their songs as they have had their music used in the TV show Suits, and the popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black as well as regular radio rotation. Exposure in Esquire magazine (after their South by Southwest festival appearance) has also helped put the band on many music fans maps.

Formed in 2012 the band quickly gained notice after appearing at a music festival and their song “Vor í Vaglaskógi” (Spring in Valga-Wood) went into heavy rotation on the radio as well as being used in the TV show Trapped.  Then in 2014 they released the song ‘All the Pretty Girls’ which lead to over 23 million streams on Spotify.

They signed with Atlantic records, moved to Austin Texas and have been enjoying growing success since then.

While they are listed as a rock band, Kaleo uses a straight ahead approach to their music, that has elements of both folk and heavy blues. But all of this is something that you could learn from other articles about the band, so the real question remains – how does the music sound?

Quite honestly – very good.

This is a band that is not a one trick pony with in how their songs sound, meaning that every song does not sound exactly the same. From mellower pieces such as “All the Pretty Girls” to the dirty, up tempo ‘Won’t Do You No Good’ Kaleo delivers strong songs one after the other.

Now a bit of personal opinion here: this article wouldn’t be complete without drawing attention to the song ‘Broken Bones’. This is a straight up classic blues offering reminiscent of the old blues masters themselves. While some bands (and artists) put in small segments of the classic blues sound of a raspy voice singing over an acoustic guitar, Kaleo did an entire song this way.

And it doesn’t sound stale or fake at all, in fact this song drips with something that we’ve been missing from the music industry for many years – soul.

And that is a word that will come to mind as you go through their songs. This is not a band who are pretending to be something, preaching something or trying to convince you how cool or hot they are; rather this is a band that sounds as though they just love making music.  And the results speak for themselves, but as always we’ll let you decide that for yourself.

This time around I’m going to include two videos, one for ‘Won’t Do You No Good’

And for ‘Broken Bones’

You can follow Kaleo through their Official Website and on their Facebook page, both of which have links to purchase their music and tour dates. Or you can catch Kaleo appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live September 8, 2016.

John Goodale is the author of ‘Johnny Gora’ (available through, and a number of articles here on His monthly column ‘Indy Comics Spotlight’ appears here and through his blog Indy Comics Spotlight

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