The Kex Hostel is a repurposed biscuit factory on the bay in Reykjavik, a brick slab of a building so inauspicious that it’s easy to miss if you happen to be strolling down the shore. Inside, it houses travelers in a series of quirkily appointed rooms. When Conner Youngblood strolled into Kex on the last day of Iceland Airwaves in November, he’d already been in the country for a couple of weeks, playing a handful of shows and taking in the landscape. It was a cold and rainy day—most November days in Reykjavik are cold and rainy days—and he quietly went to work setting up a stunning array of pedals, drum machines, and microphones that he kept in a rolling suitcase.
In a small multipurpose room meant to look like a classroom—complete with cheeky Iceland facts scrawled on the chalkboards—he played us a couple of songs: “Stockholm” and “Sulphur Springs,” both from last year’s excellent The Generation of Lift EP. In the gray Icelandic morning, the smeared mask of his autotuned vocals and the steady intermixing of longing and regret that characterizes both songs felt like both a product of the environment and an encouragement to strive against it. Check out both videos below.