on almosts
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Skúli Sverrisson - "Séria". Two weeks ago I almost died. We were skidding down a road near Selfoss, Iceland, on our way to Vik, and then suddenly as D accelerated we began, so softly, to slide. The car moved dreamlike, diagonally, over the ice. I touched D's hand where it held the wheel. I said something - I don't know what. And he said something to me. And then we were over, and over, and over. The sky flashed white in every window as our car fell off the road. It just fell. We flipped and flipped and flipped again, and I heard the sound of breaking glass.

When I opened my eyes I felt to see if I was all right. I was all right. The inside of our car was a mess. I didn't know which way was up. I remembered that mountaineer's instruction, for those trapped in an avalanche: Spit to find out which way gravity falls. I almost spat. But instead I looked out the window. The snowy ground was at my shoulder - the passenger side window.

It was with fear I turned to look at D. I didn't know what I might see. I thought of so many things before I looked at him: setting my life in order, touching this & that memory, before seeing what shadow might fall over the rest of my year. But there was D, shaken, shocked tears in his eyes, safe and hale and whole and my friend, hanging in the air by his seatbelt. We were ok.

Skúli Sverrisson (with Ólöf Arnalds) - "Vaktir þú". The next day we went to 12 Tónar, maybe the best record shop in the world. We had spent the day on a guided tour - to the waterfalls of Gullfoss, to the lake Thingvellir, to the geysers of Geysir and Strokkur. Now we were back in Rejkyavik, the sun setting, and we wanted music. One of 12 Tonar's owners greeted us as we entered. He wore a neat beard and a professor's jacket. He introduced us to the shop, explained how things worked, then made us neat little espressos. And we browsed the racks of avant garde classical and jazz, of folk and rock, all this icelandic music with cover-art I wanted pinned to my walls. Whatever we wished to hear, we took downstairs. We sat on old couches with our coffees, portable CD players set in our hands, and we scrabbled off the CDs' plasticwrap and listened.

Skúli Sverrisson's Séria is one of the CDs I bought at 12 Tonar, a recommendation of the owner. Many of the tracks are instrumental - webs of guitar-strings, organs, bass clarinets. Some, like "Vaktir þú", have vocals. (Though one song is sung by Laurie Anderson, most centre around the sad sea voice of Ólöf Arnalds.) I like it very much.

The next day we rented a car again, for two nights. I did all the driving. We went north. We went looking for the Northern Lights. I said the place-names out loud: Reykholt, Stykkish, Borgarnes, Akureyri. We rounded fjords and wove through volcanic rock. Snow lay over everything. Steam rose from the ground here and there. I wondered where all the clouds had gone. We learned that in its long dawns and dusks, Iceland's sky is a sky of pinks. One night we stood by the ice outside Grundarfjorthur and listened to birdcalls and watched something green-glimmering beside the stars.

As we drove we listened to the music we had bought - this album and others. "Séria" was our theme for the aurora borealis. "Vaktir Bu" was simply a song I love. There is something magic in this album. All things beautiful, glowing, but also vaguely disquieting. Songs of an absence. Ghost-songs, forget-me-nots, lullabyes for the days after an almost.

[buy Séria]

Posted by Sean at February 21, 2007 8:49 AM

woah. I'm glad you're alright.

Posted by dan at February 21, 2007 8:57 AM

That is such a descriptive and happy post. Even if you *almost* died in the beginning, you didn't. Hooray for life and Iceland.

Posted by Linka at February 21, 2007 9:17 AM

PLEASE !!! Take care of yourself !!

Posted by zaidie at February 21, 2007 9:17 AM

Wow. I'm glad you're okay. And what Zaidie said.

Posted by tuwa at February 21, 2007 9:46 AM

a beautiful post.
glad you're okay.

Posted by jonas at February 21, 2007 9:53 AM

oh Sean, I can't even imagine what we'd do without you....
safe travels.

Posted by BMROFF at February 21, 2007 10:19 AM

wow. amazing post. I am glad everything turned out ok. i can't imagine.

Posted by ryan97ou at February 21, 2007 10:38 AM

Whew! Glad everyone came out okay.

In spite of the apparent danger, this post still makes a boy want to go to Iceland.

Posted by MDP at February 21, 2007 11:23 AM

Aha! Been meaning to check out Skuli Sverrisson's solo stuf for a while now. He plays bass in Pachora, a fantastic downtown NYC Balkan/jazz outfit, and other NYC jazz bands. He also appeared on Johann Johannsson's 'Virthulegu Forsetar'. Talented chap. I'm looking forward to these tunes. Thanks.

Also, glad you're alive. ;)

Posted by Robert P at February 21, 2007 11:43 AM

Quick question: the smekkleysa site you linked says there's a tune on the Seria CD called Vaktir Thu- is this the same tune called Vaktir Bu above? And if so, who's right?

A minor detail, I know, but from little acorns...

Thanks again.

Posted by Robert P at February 21, 2007 11:51 AM

For Christ's sake Sean, be more careful. For a minute I thought you realised the precious nature of life, and were about to declare you wouldn't be wasting any more time online. And that would be a tragedy.

Posted by shane at February 21, 2007 12:38 PM

the track (Vaktir Bu) is called Vaktir Þú [You wake]

Posted by haukur heiðar at February 21, 2007 12:57 PM

beautiful post.

i love you!!

Posted by ru at February 21, 2007 1:15 PM

oh and good music!

Posted by ru at February 21, 2007 1:15 PM

Top stuff, Sean, wish I'd discovered that shop when I visited Iceland in 99, and glad to hear that you're OK. Be careful now!

Posted by David Belbin at February 21, 2007 1:21 PM

Man! Really glad to hear both of you are OK. Also: If the first part, where you guys crash, had been the beginning of a book, I swear I wouldn't have been able to put it down before I had finished the whole thing. Wonderful writing, sucked me right in!

Posted by Kenneth at February 21, 2007 2:43 PM

glad to hear you're ok! wished I stumbled on that shop last fall during airwaves. Looks like we're going again this year. How did you like Vik? Did you get there? It's my friend Audi's favorite place in the world.

We nearly lost our little Yari to wind gusts out that way. No ice, thank goodness.

Posted by Eric Beus at February 21, 2007 3:17 PM

Beautiful post. I'd like to have my own theme for the aurora someday, I've never even seen it, though. Yours is a great choice. I'm glad you and your friend are ok.

Posted by Karin S. at February 21, 2007 3:34 PM

hi everyone. thank you, thank you. you make a man-in-poland blush & warm.

Robert P - Ah. Yes, as Haukur notes it's Vaktir Thu. (I don't know how to make the correct character appear, but that's the best transliteration.) iTunes converted it to Bu and I didn't double-check. I've corrected it. Thanks (to both of you)! Also - I'm very curious to hear Pachora's stuff... Will have to explore when I can. It explains how he snared Laurie Anderson.

Eric - No, didn't make it to Vik. (Sadly.) Like I say we rented a car again later in the week, but went northwest along that peninsula to Grundfjorthur and so on. It seemed a little too fate-tempting to try the south ring-road a second time. It's a reason to go back!

Posted by sean at February 21, 2007 3:36 PM

every year come february, french immersion high school students must write an oral essay on a topic of their choice. i wrote mine about iceland, a mysterious land that i've dreamt of since hearing bjork for the first time, when i was nine. these songs, with your stories here, recall those first dreams.

Posted by anonyme at February 21, 2007 5:22 PM

talk about a "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" moment! I'm so glad to hear you're OK. Drop me a line when you get back to Londontown (I know I have a wait for that).

Posted by wendy at February 21, 2007 5:43 PM

Skuli Sverrisson's "Seremonie" is on eMusic. The weird thing is that it has song titled "Crash Frozen."

Posted by recusant at February 21, 2007 5:49 PM

Foreigners driving in Iceland, that´s how I aquired my favorite car of the ones I´ve had. Some American was driving it somewhere around Selfoss on an icy road and rolled it over.

Never been that fond of 12 tónar myself to limited selection for an indie buff like me.

Want to add that Skúli Sverrisson played bass on Blonde Redhead´s Misery Is A Butterfly

Posted by Ingimar at February 21, 2007 7:50 PM

Good to know you're still alive, Sean.

I liked the music you posted today very much, as well. I like hearing things from around the world.

Also, a few days ago, I watched a documentary called "Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul". I'm not mentioning it to draw some type of comparison between the music, but I thought that you might find it interesting. I did.

Posted by J.S. at February 21, 2007 7:58 PM

oh my god sean, i'm glad you're okay!

Posted by bethanne at February 21, 2007 8:22 PM

You're a role model for aspiring hopeless romantics, Sean. This is beautiful, and I too am glad nothing serious came of the accident.

Posted by Sean (the other one) at February 21, 2007 10:30 PM

Glad to hear that you're okay, Sean. I'm just an anonymous feed-lurker, sure, but it's still better to see you write what happened and that you're in one piece than to open up a post by Jordan or Dan to tell us of the End of Sean.

Try to take it easy, but don't worry if you can't. Accidents like that have a way of shaking back up randomly every now and then.

Posted by K. Hill at February 21, 2007 10:43 PM

Good to hear you got out alright. I'm really enjoying this vicarious world tour.

Posted by Jenna at February 21, 2007 11:26 PM

Holy crap, Sean. Glad you're alright. (And still more eloquent than most, scary accident be damned.)

Posted by andy at February 22, 2007 12:46 AM

What is life but a constant almost dying.

Posted by レル at February 22, 2007 9:21 AM

Thanks Haukur and Sean. I suspected, having looked again, that it was something to do with the Icelandic alphabet. The same letter appears in Virthulegu Forsetar too, in fact (the TH in the first word), which I've seen written as Viroulegu and Virbulegu too!


Posted by Robert P at February 22, 2007 9:37 AM

I almost died myself skying in Grenoble one week ago. Iceland sounds beautiful.

Posted by Moka at February 22, 2007 10:11 AM

Likewise, good to hear you're still with us!

Posted by Dylan at February 22, 2007 3:05 PM

Jesus Sean, it's hard to believe this is real, it's written like it was a dream..

Posted by Milo at February 25, 2007 4:07 PM

I've been on that same road to Vik, they all look the same though. I found Vik to be a pretty depressing place x

Posted by Aaron at February 25, 2007 5:12 PM

Good to hear you are ok.

Posted by Ajit at February 28, 2007 5:48 PM

Hi there, many thx for your kind words, we are glad you like the music so much. Skuli has been working with Laurie Anderson for a long time and is her musical director.
Olof Arnalds has just released her first solo album called Vid og Vid. we hope both record will be out in the US and Japan soon, they will be released in Europe through Cargo in the summer.
Take care and all the best from 12 Tonar

Posted by Larus at May 22, 2007 6:29 AM

Post a comment

(Please be patient, it can be slow.)
about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
our patrons
Said the Gramophone does not take advertising. We are supported by the incredible generosity of our readers. These were our donors in 2013.
watch StG's wonderful video contest winners

our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny