Iceland's KALEO make soulful blues- and folk-infused anthems centered on lead singer Jökull Júlíusson's smoky vocals. Since emerging to viral fame in 2012 with their song "Vor í Vaglaskógi," they have become a global phenomenon, drawing favorable comparisons to artists like Hozier and Ray LaMontagne. Their debut, 2013's KALEO, was a break-out success, spawning several more hits that went gold. They gained wider attention with their 2016 sophomore album A/B, which cracked the Billboard 200. Formed in 2012 in the town of Mosfellsbær, just outside of Reykjavik, KALEO (a Hawaiian word that translates to "the sound") originally featured childhood friends Jökull Júlíusson (vocals, guitar), Davíð Antonsson (drums), and Daníel Ægir Kristjánsson (bass). They began playing together as teenagers, later adding guitarist Rubin Pollock to the mix. Inspired by a blend of blues, folk, country, and rock, they made their live debut in 2012 at the Icelandic Airwaves music festival and recorded their first singles the following year. Their live radio performance of the traditional Icelandic tune "Vor í Vaglaskógi" became a surprise regional hit and the video went viral in 2013. By year's end, KALEO had signed with Sena, the country's largest record label. Their debut, 2013's eponymous KALEO), went gold in their home country, spawning five number one hits and inspiring their first European tour. The release of their introspective acoustic single, "All the Pretty Girls" in 2014, became a turning point for the young band, and before long KALEO had signed with Atlantic in the U.S. and relocated to Austin, Texas, where they began working on material for their next release and touring North America. A pair of new singles arrived in 2015 as the band found their footing in the States. The inclusion of "Way Down We Go" in an episode of NBC's Blindspot garnered KALEO nationwide exposure, as did a promo spot for the song "No Good," which was featured on the trailer for the HBO series Vinyl. Another single, "I Can't Go on Without You," arrived in early 2016. Their international debut album, A/B, was released later that summer and landed at number 16 on the Billboard 200. In 2020, they returned with the singles "I Want More" and "Break My Baby," which appeared on their second full-length, Surface Sounds, later the same year.
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 10, 2016 | Elektra (NEK)
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime
Opening with a track entitled No Good? A surefire way to help listeners understand that what comes next is rock’n’roll inspired by the golden age of guitar. It’s easy to see why the TV series Vinyl chose the the track to integrate into their soundtrack. Kaleo mark their territory definitively here with energetic rock, deft instrumentalism and some great folk ballads. The vocals of JJ Julius Son goes from are at times rough, and at others, crystalline – the dynamism is impressive from start to finish. There is an element of brilliance on their album A/B (Way Down We Go). With the likes of the Jacquire King (Kings of Leon) and Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys), Kaleo has definitely ensured the quality of production – and the sound on this album is a testament to that fact. An incredibly diverse project well deserving of our Qobuzism award!
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