We Are the Willows’ Peter Miller Is Influenced by Björn (Not Björk) for This Fave You’ve Never Heard

No doubt this will be your first dose of the Icelandic singer/songwriter Mugison


I taught preschool for a couple years after graduating from college. Preschool is really about teaching kids the fundamentals of being a person, which was the best and the worst at the same time, all of the time. It meant teaching them letters, numbers, and how to treat each other; it also meant dealing with tantrums and meltdowns and trying to stop kids from pooping anywhere weird.

One of my favorite students was an Icelandic kid named Björn. His parents had moved to the U.S. for grad school at the University of Minnesota, and I got to know them pretty well — in part because they are incredibly kind people and in part because Björn had a short fuse and could be be really stubborn. Every day Björn wore a green army jacket that he thought made him look like Captain Jack Sparrow.  Come winter, he refused to wear a winter coat or snow pants because Jack Sparrow doesn’t wear them.  So, I spent a lot of time brainstorming with Björn’s parents about how to get him into his un-pirate-like winter gear.

In getting to know Björn’s parents, I learned that they love music. They were big fans of the Icelandic musicians I knew, Sigur Rós and Björk, but they really loved this singer/songwriter called Mugison. They lent me a copy of his album, Mugimama Is This Monkey Music?, and I was floored by Mugison’s dynamic and stylistic range. His tunes take hints from blues and Americana music, but he twists those genres by pairing them with obscure manipulated samples and field recordings. I was particularly struck by a tune called, “What I Would Say In Your Funeral.” It’s a slow and pretty duet. It’s beautiful and spooky, intimate and otherworldly, palatable and a bit weird.

>Mugison can handle these dynamics better than most. He artfully transitions from soft vocals and intricate guitars to janky, out-of-tune pianos and raspy whispers. At the time, it gave me the sense that he understood the best and worst of life. I think I needed to hear music like that. I think I still do.

We Are the Willows’ new double album Picture (Portrait) Parts 1 and 2 is out now. For more on We Are the Willows, check out: http://www.wearethewillows.com

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