Two years ago to the day I first heard Sin Fang. I was in the basement of 12 Tonar in Reykjavik, Iceland and it was my thirtieth birthday. The thing about 12 Tonar, the reason it’s known as one of the best record stores in the world, is that you’re allowed to listen to anything before you buy it–crack open the case, fondle the liner notes, stare at your reflection in the silvery rainbow disc. My husband had set up at one of the listening stations with a stack of cds the guy at the counter had recommended. I, on the other hand, needed to browse. I knew I wanted some Icelandic music, but I wasn’t sure what. Bjork was too obvious, and I’m not big on Sigur Ros. I kept finding myself drawn to the cover art of one album in particular. It was a photograph of a man partially obscured by a watercolor-y reflection, with a beard of flowers cascading down his face. I found myself staring at that cover once, twice, until finally I thought, “Okay, I’ll listen to you.” …Which is odd for me because I can almost never decide if I like a song right away.
So, I sat down in one of the velvety victorian chairs and slipped the plastic off of the album, wondering what the hell kind of name was Sin Fang. Well, Icelandic, obviously, but was Sin Fang a band or a person? Do they sing in English or Icelandic? Would the songs be as pretty and ethereal as the artwork suggested? I pulled the disc out of the paper case and popped it in the little blue boom box sitting on the coffee table in front of me. Strapped on my headphones.
And pressed play.
It sounded like a heartbeat. A tambourine tapping out the morse-code rhythm of the last moments of childhood. I closed my eyes and a forest of tiny Icelandic trees sprang up. I saw two boys, though I didn’t yet know their names. Ten seconds in and I was sold, but I listened to the full song. As soon as it ended, I shut it off. I wanted to hear the rest of the album, but not then. Not yet. I needed to save it until I got home, all the way back home to Missouri. I knew already that this album was as good a memento as the bottle of black sand I’d scooped up off the beach. This was my journey, wrapped in a paper sleeve.
I listen to this album almost every day of my life.