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By gwblogabroad

I'm a notoriously bad shopper. This extends to pretty much all aspects of my life, which explains why about 92% of my wardrobe is H&M clothing. Essentially I just go for what's easy and painless (praise the glory of Amazon.com). One of the few places I can't just fall back on online shopping and sort by best reviewed or most popular is grocery shopping. This means that the rare occasions I can be spotted at a grocery store I'm usually just pacing blindly back and forth with an empty expression of despair in my eyes.

For this reason I have resolved to put down a list of "Kitchen essentials for the lazy exchange student" to make my life easier. With these at hand (in fridge) you'll be sure to cook yourself through any troubles and have a mediocre meal to show for it.

Spice
This one is rather obvious; we need salt, pepper and paprika. But wait! There's more! Next time you go to a burger place put on some nice clothes (read: no sweat stains) and hit on the waitress. Just casual, mind you. A nice tip is to pretend to be just a wee bit drunk to fight the awkwardness, but not enough to be the annoying, loud drunk. Whatever you do, you must refrain to give her a friendly pat on the back because that's sexual harassment (even if it's acceptable behavior for old men in some countries; Italy). The point of all of this trouble is to be able to pseudo-jokingly ask the waitress, as you're about to leave, if you can keep the steak&fries seasoning they keep at the table. If you've played your cards well, she will smile and say "yes". Wink her to show appreciation. This spice is a wonderful addition to your spice cabinet as it goes with damn near everything.

Meat
If you're a vegetarian you should take a moment here to reflect on your priorities and then spend whatever time is left on missing bacon. I like to keep chicken, beef and pork at hand and rotate between them. This keeps my food pyramid from becoming too stagnant, because obviously they're all seasoned with the same burgerplace-spice. What I do, to keep my budget down, is getting them in bulk, then putting it all in individual meal size zip-lock bags and store it all in the freezer. Because I'm somewhat ecologically conscious I also reuse the zip-lock bags (protip). Now all you have to do is remember to take your meat of the day out of the freezer in the morning so it's thawed up and nice when you're planning to cook it. WARNING! I don't trust microwaves, so do not use the de-freeze function on them!

Vegetables
Onion, sweet potatoes, white mushrooms, peppers and zucchini are staples in my fridge. Like all the items on this list they go with damn near anything. Omelet, fried vegetable side, vegetable soup, sauces. That's everything! This also reminds me of the next object...

Eggs
Eggs keep for a long time and serve as a quick meal when time is limited. Other than the obvious uses in omelets and sandwiches, I also sometimes hard boil a few of them and keep them in the fridge for later use.

Skyr + bananas
I've coupled this combo because I always eat them together. See Skyr is an Icelandic traditional yogurt. In america it's actually classified as a cheese, but never mind that. Skyr is naturally fat free, low calorie and extremely high in protein, so it's really good for you. But natural, unsweetened Skyr is also pretty sour, so to counter than I enjoy it with sliced bananas, as a source of natural sweetness. It's perfect for "that 2:30 feeling" (that's a trademark owned by 5 hour energy). Skyr is available in Whole Foods, you should try it out.

Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce
This goes along with the spice section above, it goes fantastically with all the meats and spices above. Nothing more to say on this one. It's the best BBQ sauce by far.

Oat meal + raisins
I start every morning with a bowl of oatmeal. It's super quick and easy, just throw it in the microwave for 30 secs and let it sit for a minute and it's ready. In America there's a vast array of flavored, prepackaged oatmeal available, but you don't need it. Just buy one of those huge cylinders of pure oatmeal and sweeten it with raisins. It's so much cheaper, lasts forever and is a lot healthier. It's also really tasty.

Chips
This one is an old camping secret of mine. Whatever you're cooking, literally whatever, you can always use chips to make it better. Need some breadcrumbs to bread your pork? No, silly, use crushed chips! Are you lacking some crunch to your burger? Well, throw some chips on it! Did you run out of burger flirty-spice? Just crush up some chips and sprinkle them on there! It's as easy as that.

This concludes my list for now. With these new found culinary weapons in your artillery, you should all be on the fast track to becoming adequate, albeit sub-par, cooks in no time!

By gwblogabroad

The statue of Liberty… I couldn’t believe my eyes when I could barely see it standing on that island, far away from where I was.  I couldn’t believe it either when I was standing at the bottom of it, a few meters away from it. There it was, proudly and majestically standing in front of me, representing such a long and deep-rooted history. However, all I could think about was: this is it. This is the place that I’ve been dreaming of seeing since I came to the US. This is the statue that I’ve seen in hundreds of movies and read about in most of my history classes. I was in front of the “symbol” of the United States of America.

Soon enough, I discovered that there was more to see in New York… way more! The museums were absolutely amazing and impossible to see in just one day. It took us three days to see all of them and we still feel as if we rushed through them. The only museum that we didn’t get a chance to see was the natural history one. But why bother? There is an even better one right here in DC! However, I have to admit that the best that I got a chance to see in New York is the Empire State Building.

One of my friends and I were running late. We were supposed to meet at the entrance at 8PM as we wanted to see New York “by night” and fully enjoy the lights illuminating the whole city. However, at exactly 8:05PM, we got out of the metro station and wondered who to ask in order to get there. As I looked up at the sky, I realized that no asking was necessary. The Empire State Building, with its hundred and something floors, looked like it was staring at the city. We could see the white, red and blue colors at the top of it. We could see those colors knowing that that was the exact spot where we would all be standing in a few minutes. We literally run towards the building, as the excitation and apprehension both were filling every part of our body.

Nothing could possibly describe how I felt as I got out of the elevator and faced the immensity of the world ahead of me. I didn’t care anymore about who was with me or whether it was cold outside or not (and believe me, it was freezing). I opened that last door that was separating me from the terrace and stood there for about fifteen minutes, staring at the exact same thing, without moving, almost without breathing. The expression “take my breath away” fully applied in that situation. That view was breath taking! And as I started slowly moving around the terrace, I realized that each side of the building enabled me to look at a different world. There, I could see the river. Here I can see the huge buildings. And there I could see the Brooklyn Bridge. We spent more than two hours there. One might ask what we could possibly do for two entire hours at the top of a building. Well, go to the top of the empire state building and you’ll realize that you can never get tired of that view. It is simply magical.

As I got back inside of the building, I could notice people kissing everywhere. And for one moment, one tiny little moment, it made me sad. As much as I enjoyed going there with my friends from all over the world, I realized that nothing can replace going there with “the one”. But I couldn’t think about that right now. I still had a whole day to spend in New York. I had to keep smiling. However, as soon as I got in the bus that was taking us back to DC, I let my thoughts and emotions run free. So, I sat there, for four hours, thinking about this visit to New York was incomplete. I looked at my friends, happily sleeping, and I envied them for not feeling what I felt. Therefore, I promised myself one thing: one day, I will come back. One day, I will go back to the top of the Empire State Building and as I will look at the beauty of the world ahead of me, I will turn to my right and kiss the man that I love. It's only at that precise moment that I will finally feel like my visit in New York is complete.

By gwblogabroad

In case some of you did not notice, the last couple of weeks were full of anniversaries: GW's 100 years in Foggy Bottom and George Washington's 223rd birthday. Even before that, I had noticed how dear George Washington was to the university. You run into his bust almost every block. Yet those events were a good opportunity to learn a little bit more about American traditions.

1) S'mores:

This is probably the best thing the US have ever invented (after the Internet of course). I was familiar with marshmallows like anybody who went to summer camps. Yet I had never eaten s'mores. The idea is simple: biscuit- chocolate-marshmallow-chocolate. The result is simply delicious. Too bad we discovered that only in February and I don't have a fireplace to make them at home. My only complaint: there should really be a seminar on how to make them at the beginning of the semester because chances are you won't be able to make them properly the first time you try.

2) Bonfire: 

An orchestra, a giant fire and a George Washington mascot... I keep wondering what it would look like if this happened in Paris next to my home university, Sciences Po. This is for me the main difference a campus make. We would never have such social events in France. Firstly, this would mean blocking a whole street and probably starting a fire considering how  narrow the streets are. Secondly, inhabitants of the seventh district of Paris would fear that young people from the "banlieues" are coming to attack their neighborhood. Finally, the sound of an orchestra playing would probably make people think it's July 14th or the Gay Pride demonstrating early this year (which would be stupid because it's 30°F in France right now so half-naked dancers would be freezing).

3) The Legendary George:

I did not know about Presidents Day before it actually happened, although I wondered why someone had put a hat on George's head near Foggy Bottom metro. After I realized this meant I wouldn't have a test in my investigative reporting class on Monday - which made me pretty happy - I looked up on Wikipedia what was the meaning of this holiday. As it turns out, Americans celebrate their presidents' birthdays, especially Washington's and Lincoln's. It is not a shock that great figures of history are important in the US. In France, less so. First, we don't usually celebrate dead people's birthday but dead people's ... death day. Above all, I don't think everybody would feel comfortable celebrating Napoleon's birthday for example. Among other things, he is the author of a text that said: "Husbands must protect their wives, wives must be obedient to their husband". Let's just say that feminists would not be thrilled to celebrate Napoleon's birthday. On the contrary, in the US, especially at GW that was named after George, history is still very sacred. Busts of Presidents are everywhere and politicians still refer to the Founding Fathers to defend certain ideas or object to reforms.

All of this to say that there is more than an ocean that separates France and the United States.

By gwblogabroad

There it is: we have found a way to make hundreds of loud and rude college students inoffensive. It is not the most elegant way but it is efficient. An epidemic.

It started at the beginning of the week. You ate somewhere, you touched something and before you knew, you had it. You felt nauseated and after a couple of hours you received an email from the university:

"The George Washington University Student Health Service is currently seeing an increased number of students with gastrointestinal symptoms, most likely of a viral origin.”

“No. No. NOOO” is your first reaction. Now that you are facing the truth, you have to tell your friends you won’t be able to brunch with them tomorrow.

You continue reading the email:

“While symptoms can be uncomfortable, gastrointestinal illness is usually not serious and most people get better in one to two days.  There is no drug treatment or vaccine for gastrointestinal illness.”

Well, this is the polite equivalent of: “Don’t bother coming to see us. There is no cure. And we don’t want to get sick too”. Never mind, you are brave, you will bare the consequences of touching door handles irresponsibly. You will just go to sleep and hope you will not die in painful circumstances.

Wait. The email is not over:

"The university is working with the DC Department of Health and is currently awaiting the outcome of testing to determine the cause of the infections.  The university is also working to identify any commonalities in the cases at GW.  No single commonality has been identified to date."

Are we talking about the plague? I am not even sure we have health service at my home university so an investigation about the causes of the epidemic seems a little bit disproportionate. If we think about it for a second, they are basically hiring people to find the cause of a disease that is not serious and for which there is no cure anyway.

They finally found the origin of the epidemic: it is a norovirus. That doesn’t help us much, but it is way more elegant than saying that you have gastrointestinal symptoms. Yet, during the next few days, you still see one friend after another being trapped in his or her room, like soldiers dying on the battlefield.

There are two possible scenarios now:

1) People will get better, fewer and fewer will get sick and life will be happy and healthy again.

2) This is the beginning of the end of the world foreseen in 2012.

Right now, it's 50-50 given that every office at GW has turned paranoiac and is cleaning every inch touched by a student. But let's not be pessimistic, if we survived the bird flu, we will probably survive the norovirus.

By gwblogabroad

An epic voyage comes to a dramatic climax. From the void darkness of Chaos erupts the final passage in what Rolling Stone Magazine called "The Definitive Account of Icelandic Music and Culture" (needs citation). After many sleepless nights awash with deep thoughts and dramatic fist-shaking towards the sky, I'm finally ready to enrich your lives with a glimpse into the modern marvel that is Iceland Airwaves.

Iceland Airwaves began in 1999 in a large aircraft hangar at the Reykjavik National Airport. Even in those early days it was clear to the people involved that this was destined to become bigger, but none imagined the phenomenal success the festival has seen since then.  The venues have now moved from the singular aircraft hangar and into the city, utilizing bars, clubs, museums, cafés, libraries and the new massive music hall; Harpa. This makes it stand out among most music festivals; there are no tents, no mud, no porta-potty.

The festival has specialized in emerging artists, often featuring artists that are on the verge of blossoming into full-fledged fame. Clap your hands say yeah, Rapture, Hot Chip, Vampire Weekend, Flaming Lips, TV on the Radio, Ratatat, Architecture in Helsinki, Klaxons, Sigur Rós, Björk, JJ, Robyn, Toro Y Moi, Bombay Bicycle Club, Mount Kimbie, Efterklang, The Antlers, Ólafur Arnalds, tUnE-yArDs, Beach House, James Murphy, etc...

These are not counting the plethora of fantastic foreign and Icelandic bands that don't get anywhere near the attention they deserve. Mix this all together and throw in some great venues, Icelandic hospitality and grown-up drinks, congratulations, you now have a great music festival.

Don't just take my word for it, though. You could, for example, listen to David Fricke of Rolling stone Magazine instead (actual quote this time), who called it "the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar." You could also just Google some reviews yourself, they all say the same thing. As an alternative to those visually inclined, I've included a short but fantastic documentary about the festival. Watch the video, fall in love with the festival and then come visit me in Iceland. It's worth it.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/35328791 w=600]

By gwblogabroad

In New York,

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,

 There's nothing you can't do,

Now you're in New York,

These streets will make you feel brand new,

The lights will inspire you,

Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

I know you are singing right now. I mean, how can you not! I’ve been singing this song over and over again in my head for five hours…The five hours that took me away from Washington, DC and closer and closer to New York. Five hours, sitting on a bus, trying to fall asleep when all I could think about was New York, New York, New York…

Oh shoot, Oh my God, OH MY GOD! These are the exact words that I used when I set foot outside of the bus and looked up to face a huge building that had at least 50 floors. Of course, most of my friends made fun of me as, apparently, in Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, buildings that are that tall are not uncommon. Well, excuse the humble Moroccan girl who’s never faced a building that was taller than 10 floors (except for the Twin Center that is quite near to where I live in Casablanca but still, it’s “only” 28 floors)! It was 5 AM when we got out of the bus. Yet, any of us could have sworn it was 7 or 8PM. People were everywhere, cars where everywhere…New York really is the city that never sleeps.

We walked for about one hour, heading towards the famous Times Square. One hour of pure amazement and admiration. I didn’t believe people when they told me that walking around New York’s streets is an attraction itself. But when I saw those lights, those buildings, the sun slowly rising up behind the skyscrapers…I can assure you that I forgot all about the fact that I was tired or that I didn’t sleep. I wanted to keep wandering around for the rest of the trip. I wanted to stay in New York for the rest of my stay in the US. Just one hour was enough to make me realize that I didn’t want to set foot again in DC. This is the United States of America that I’ve seen in movies, in TV shows or even just in pictures. This is the reason why I decided to come to the US at the first place.

Then Times Square… just a bunch of billboards and huge buildings and lights everywhere, but it’s Times Square! The place where the famous New Year’s Eve ball falls down. The place where you can feel that you are freer that ever. I wanted to stay there until the sun would fully shine on the city but we had to go to the apartment that we rented in order to check in and put there all of the heavy stuff that we were carrying with us. One surprise after the other, we realized that in order to get to the apartment (which was in Harlem by the way), we had to cross Central Park. Oh my God Central Park! I was actually inside Central Park! I really don’t know how to describe what I was feeling at that precise moment but all I can say is that watching the sun rise in Central Park in definitely a better deal than doing it in Times Square. Simply breathtaking! However, since we were in a rush, we finally decided to take the subway. I think that this is the worst experience that I’ve had in New York. I carry some bitter memories with New York’s public transportation system but I really don’t mind considering all the fun that I had in that magical place. I might say that the only good thing about the subway there is that it is extremely cheap compared to DC. Actually everything is cheaper in New York compared to DC (another reason why I didn’t want to come back, besides how boring DC is). Anyway, right after we settled down and put our stuff in the apartment, we headed directly to the number one thing that each one of us came to New York to see: the Statue of Liberty…

By gwblogabroad

There it is: we have found a way to make hundreds of loud and rude college students inoffensive. It is not the most elegant way but it is efficient. An epidemic.

It started at the beginning of the week. You ate somewhere, you touched something and before you knew, you had it. You felt nauseated and after a couple of hours you received an email from the university:

"The George Washington University Student Health Service is currently seeing an increased number of students with gastrointestinal symptoms, most likely of a viral origin.”

“No. No. NOOO” is your first reaction. Now that you are facing the truth, you have to tell your friends you won’t be able to brunch with them tomorrow.

You continue reading the email:

“While symptoms can be uncomfortable, gastrointestinal illness is usually not serious and most people get better in one to two days.  There is no drug treatment or vaccine for gastrointestinal illness.”

Well, this is the polite equivalent of: “Don’t bother coming to see us. There is no cure. And we don’t want to get sick too”. Never mind, you are brave, you will bare the consequences of touching door handles irresponsibly. You will just go to sleep and hope you will not die in painful circumstances.

Wait. The email is not over:

"The university is working with the DC Department of Health and is currently awaiting the outcome of testing to determine the cause of the infections.  The university is also working to identify any commonalities in the cases at GW.  No single commonality has been identified to date."

Are we talking about the plague? I am not even sure we have health service at my home university so an investigation about the causes of the epidemic seems a little bit disproportionate. If we think about it for a second, they are basically hiring people to find the cause of a disease that is not serious and for which there is no cure anyway.

They finally found the origin of the epidemic: it is a norovirus. That doesn’t help us much, but it is way more elegant than saying that you have gastrointestinal symptoms. Yet, during the next few days, you still see one friend after another being trapped in his or her room, like soldiers dying on the battlefield.

There are two possible scenarios now:

1) People will get better, fewer and fewer will get sick and life will be happy and healthy again.

2) This is the beginning of the end of the world foreseen in 2012.

Right now, it's 50-50 given that every office at GW has turned paranoiac and is cleaning every inch touched by a student. But let's not be pessimistic, if we survived the bird flu, we will probably survive the norovirus.

By gwblogabroad

Philadelphia…Whoever created that city created a place where I had one of the most amazing days I’ve had since I came to the US.  The weather was awful, most of the places we wanted to visit were closed and finding the right place where to eat the legendary cheese steak was a long and painful journey. However, my mind is now full of unique memories and it is only because I had the chance to go there with the most amazing group of people someone can meet. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Let me give you a detailed description of my day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

At 6:45 AM sharp, my friends and I all met at the Foggy Bottom metro station. It was freezing (actually, I thought it was freezing but it wasn’t until later during the day that I discovered the real meaning of the word “freezing”), everybody was both excited and incredibly sleepy and we were running late since our bus was leaving in less than 30 minutes. Therefore, we chose the safest solution and took a cab to Union Station. As soon as we were on that bus, comfortably seated (seriously, those seats are incredibly comfortable!) and in a warm environment, every single one of us fell asleep, forgetting for a couple of hours about the excitement the trip was causing us and surrendering to the sweet call of Morpheus’ arms. After we arrived and had a nice breakfast in some cozy diner (best waffles ever!), we all went to see the famous Liberty Bell. We all had heard about it from different TV Shows or American friends as it is a big part of the American history. So, we all were expecting some kind of huge bell with this crack that has such an exciting story behind it. However, we ended up seeing a fairly sized bell with a crack that has absolutely no “deep” meaning behind it. But still, we saw the Liberty Bell! We weren’t as ignorant to the American history as we were half an hour before. Anyway, we then went to discover the Independence Hall and learned more and more about the American history. However, it was ironic to see that 90% of the people visiting those same places were actually Americans. This made me realize that Philadelphia is more of a city where Americans can learn about their own history rather than a place that tourists can visit. However, I still was happy to learn more about my host country’s history.

Anyway, right after Independence Hall, we were all really excited to go see the US mint! At least, we were excited up until the moment we realized that it was closed for renovations and was not going to be open again until summer (in other words, after our departure from the country). However, we weren’t going to let this news ruin our day. We took the metro (which is by the way a lot more efficient than the one in DC) and headed towards 15th street where we were supposed to find the best cheese steak in the country. Turns out the cheese steak places were located on 9th Street. It was getting colder and colder but our motivation was stronger than anything else. We ate what turned out to be a delicious sandwich and headed to see the last and most important thing: the Rocky Stairs!

We couldn’t feel our legs anymore, we wanted to sleep and it was now snowing. But Rocky was waiting for us (or at least its statue)! We walked for an hour and finally saw the legendary stairs. I personally couldn’t believe we finally made it. So, we all ran those stairs, feeling stronger than ever. At the top, one of the most wonderful views that I’ve ever seen was facing us. We took some pictures and headed back to the metro station. However, the snowflakes started to fall faster and faster and the temperature was now 25 degrees (Fahrenheit of course!). So, after we had a hot coffee while we were waiting for the snow to stop, we did the most childish thing ever: snow fight! Turns out our dear Singaporean friends had never seen snow before (who knew it was always summer in Singapore!). For a few minutes, everyone forgot how cold it was, how far away from home we were or how hard each one of us missed his/her family. For a few minutes, we just let go. We received freezing snow balls right on the face, we fell, we smiled and we laughed. These few minutes were absolutely magical.

However, those few minutes almost cost us our ride back to DC. We were too busy playing and forgot that we had a bus to catch! Thank God though; we made it to the bus station exactly 3 minutes before its departure. Was the snow fight worth the risk of spending the night in the freezing train station of Philadelphia? Definitely!

By gwblogabroad

Five courses, five different professors and five different vibes... this is how I am spending my exchange semester at George Washington University. This is how I spent all of the previous semesters at Al Akhawayn University. However, even though the system is the same in both my home and host universities, the learning style not only varies from AUI to GWU, it even varies from one professor to another. Both AUI and GWU offer courses in English with professors from all around the world with different teaching methods and various skills in specific fields. Therefore, if despite all of these similarities I can still feel that there is a big difference between the two universities, it must be because it is mainly due to the different cultures and not only the different learning environments.

Let’s start by one major difference between AUI and GW before specifically discussing the difference between the classes. Even though both universities have amazing campuses, they are completely and a hundred percent different. GW’s campus is impressively huge. It has so many buildings with a minimum of five floors each and these buildings are spread out around Foggy Bottom’s area. If I want to go to class and be there on time, I would need to leave my room at least fifteen minutes earlier if the classroom is in a building nearby. Sometimes, I need less time (because I run!) and other times I need more time (either because I wear heels, because the building is located in some distant street or because I need to take a bus to actually reach the location of the classroom). The campus is located right in the middle of the city, the streets are full of cars at any moment of the day and there are actually traffic lights inside the campus. In other words, anybody can walk in or out of the campus since there is no actual difference between GW’s buildings and any other building nearby (except for the dorms for which you we actually need a card to be authorized to come in). Campus is just a word used that infers to the university as a whole instead of a closed area where only GW students, faculty or staff can be found.

On the other hand, AUI’s campus is pretty small compared to GW’s one. Its buildings have between one and four floors and they are all pretty close to each other. You could easily walk through the whole campus in less than fifteen minutes. It usually takes me five minutes to get to the classroom (when wearing heels!) and the only way you can be inside the campus would be for you to be a student, a faculty member or a staff working within the university. The university campus is a closed area where students can be sure that no stranger can come in. Therefore, even if university is about becoming adults and responsible of ourselves, parents always make sure that their children are in a perfectly secured place where there isn’t the slightest chance of something bad happening. As for the courses, attendance is mandatory and each student who fails to meet a certain amount of classes fails the entire course. So, even if attendance represents only a small portion of the final grade and students are supposed to be able to make their own choices, being absent for more than seven classes means failing. Assignments are usually just a way for the professors to torture their students and midterms and finals have percentages as high as 30 and 35 percent.

In George Washington University, there is no such thing as failing a course because of attendance. Professors assign a certain percentage of the grade to attendance and the more absences the student has, the more that percentage comes closer to zero. Some sections contain so many people (up to 200 students) that attendance is not even part of the final grade. Each student is responsible for his own choices and decisions. Assignments and projects represent a big chunk of the final grade and have usually the same weight (if not a bigger one) as a midterm or final. In other words, the university offers to the student an endless amount of resources and it is up to the student to decide what he/she wants to do with them.

These differences may seem somehow superficial, but for a student who needs to adapt to a new system for five months and then go back again to the previous one, they can be tricky. However, as I said previously, those differences between AUI and GWU actually reflect the part of the differences between Morocco and the United States of America. While Morocco is a very collectivist country, the US is more of an individualistic one. The ideal would be to have a mix between those two characteristics and live in a world where Morocco, the US and any other country of the planet learn from the differences that make this world so unique. Unfortunately, that would be dreaming about a utopia that will never happen.

By gwblogabroad

Okay, fine! I’ll admit it, I completely lost track of these groups that I initially made up. This one is supposed to be “rock,” but honestly the bands I have left are way more diverse than that. Woe is me! My solution in this case will be to simply modify the group name a bit. Please don’t send me angry letters, such as the example provided below:

“Dear Thor. I was casually going through my regular schedule of rummaging through the depths of the interweb when I stumbled onto your blog. “Oh dear me,” I thought, “what a delight! Rock is indeed my favorite genre of rhythmic tonal contraptions.” My delight was short-lived. You can scarcely imagine my utter despair when I discovered the extents of your fallacies. For several dark minutes, I stared into the bleak, piercing eyes of the beast that is “Lack of proper categorization of musical genres.” For this crime against humanity, I thoroughly hope your day will be bad. Also I hope you bump into a low coffee table, and hit your shin really hard.

Sincerely,

Ned.

I made that up, but I feel like those guys are always named Ned. Just like all the bros, that fist bump and wear their caps backwards, are all named Jeff. Ned is the kind of guy who reads the news with the sole intention of finding grammatical errors, just so he can send the editors angry emails about it. This particular Ned, I imagine, also owns a cat. The cat is equally arrogant. Let’s commence.

Part III – Rock and other music with sounds

Agent Fresco

Agent Fresco is part prog-rock and part alt-rock, with heavy influences from jazz and funk, and a characteristic polyrhythmic style. That’s a mouthful, I know, but listen to their debut album through and it will all make perfect sense. If you end up going to the Iceland Airwaves music festival someday (which of course you all are), I cannot stress how important it is that you see these guys live. Their songs are so instantly catchy that without exception the crowd will start singing along with the chorus. Not just the few old guys that got too drunk at Burnt out Classic Rock Band concerts and annoyingly blurt out the lyrics, but literally the whole crowd. I’ve seen them many times, and as great as the big, loud concerts are, my favorites are the acoustic ones they do off-venue each year at Iceland Airwaves. They go all-out on the acoustic thing, even abandoning microphones.

If you end up giving any of the bands I’ve mentioned a try, I really hope you pick Agent Fresco. Find their album (gogoyoko.com is a great place to start), listen to it all the way through and then tell me what you think. Listen to the transition from hard, rhythmic prog-rock to slow, hauntingly beautiful piano ballads. If you don’t like this, you’re probably broken. I hope you kept the receipt.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMoNIUGkMxE&h=25]

As much as this will probably push some people away, I’ll also include a video of them playing a song at Iceland Airwaves 2011. Notice how the crowd responds and takes part in the song towards the end. That’s amazing.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLc1OErsXOg]

Hjaltalín

Hjaltalín draws its influences from many genres, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just call them indie. The band is fronted by a strong male/female vocal duo, the male singer being the charismatic Högni (previously mentioned in relation to Gus Gus). This post is getting way to long, so I’ll just let the music speak for this one. This is Hjaltalín performing with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra in 2010.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbAOrDfjuqk]

Of Monsters and Men

You might actually have heard this band on the radio without noticing it. Their song, Little Talks from their debut album My Head is an Animal, has gained popularity fantastically fast. No wonder, really, it’s ridiculously catchy. They’ve been described as the Icelandic Mumford and Sons and even “the new Arcade Fire” in the Rolling Stone Magazine. Big words, certainly, but not far off. The songs are big, fun and the kind of catchy that just impregnates your mind with humming for days on end.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghb6eDopW8I]

Notable mentions

Hjálmar

It’s an Icelandic reggae band. They’re fantastic. There’s really nothing more to say about this one. They have a big repertoire of fantastic songs, but the one I’ve included below is one of my all-time favorites. It’s one of those songs that make me want to sit in the dark with my headphones on, just swaying my head along with the rhythm.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1Lxg13UL60&h=25]

Mammút

Mammút is a young, mostly female band. What definitely sets them apart is the eccentric, strong vocal style of the lead singer.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PxO9eA_ao4&h=25]

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