The first time I heard a song by Sigur Ros, I was instantly determined to get one of their albums. The song Njosnavelin or Untitled 4 as it is listed in the album, briefly featured in one of my favourite films, Vanilla Sky,'s climactic final scene. Ever since then, the song never ceases to get a smile out of me. What I did not expect was that what () has to offer could almost rival the very song I fell in love with. You know you've found a gem when the album has other songs that are just as good if not better than its already favorite lead single. The first thing you'll notice about () though is (apart from its strange affinity for brackets/parentheses) is that the songs all contain vocals that don't necessarily have any meaning, Vonlenska as it has been dubbed by frontman Jónsi, a constructed language that is up for interpretation by the listener. As odd as it may sound, in writing and upon hearing it, it doesn't subtract anything from () being a stellar album.
So 'Untitled 1' as it is aptly named, starts off the album with some ghostly bellows from the lead singer, alongside a dejected piano piece. Its all very saddening yet bright enough about what is to come, when the vocals eventually come to life, its as if someone is trying to tell you something. Although you don't know what he is saying, you somehow get the gist of it, coupled with the emotions raised by the ascending violins and trickling keyboards in the background. 'Vaka' as it was later revealed, is a decent introduction to an album and highlights what the listener is in for, by starting at a snails pace and slowly working its way up to a big finish. The child like high pitch vocal noises are a tad disturbing but all things considered, you may as well listen. 'Untitled 2 (Frysta)' however, is a slumping dazed song, that makes your eyes feel heavy. Its atmospheric dullness is only kept bearable by the slight hopefulness of the guitar work. That is until you hear similar 'lyrics' reused, one of the albums few flaws. The song drags and makes the rest of the album seem like its going to be a chore to withstand. 'Samskeyti' implores you listen on. The third track is one of the most upbeat songs on the album, if a little repetitive at times. The piano returns with an even more pleasant melody than before, slowly rising in volume and severity. This one seems to have no main vocal, but rather little murmurings going in their own direction and at its highest point, shows what the use of a bow on an electric guitar is capable of.
No.4 is worth the time to check out. 'Njosnavelin' is one of those songs that advertisers and editors put into their work, to emphasize just how incredible it is (listen to Sigur Ros' 'Hoppipolla' from the 2005 album 'Takk' for an example). Its where the vocals are at their best, full of strong poignent feeling and emotion that literally cannot be described. So this is one you need to hear for yourself - It would take a heart of steel to deny this songs beauty. It seems to have everything covered, from rhythmic percussion to harmonious vocal and the signature e-bow and crystal like synth. Woefully, the next track 'Alafoss' changes the direction yet again and becomes a polar opposite to the previous track. With its similar mood, drum beat and feedback, its a grim reminder of the 2nd song.. At least until an angry ending makes it stand out a bit more. The custom instrument named 'E-Bow' is naturally the name of the 6th song, in which it makes a bold statement in feedback fiddled fashion. Like the others, its beginnings are humbly quiet and take time to build momentum for what is an almighty clash of sound that stands out so vividly. During the 2nd interlude the classical e-bow playing is met with heavy piano and thumping drums, its none short of epic and one of the best on the album.
So far the songs have been well over 5 minutes each with the average time elapsing to about 8 minutes. Again, this makes it sound a tad boring considering the amount of time building up momentum, so its clear that you'd be better off listening in a patient or even spiritual mood. 'Dau>alai>' is again a recurring theme from before. Its the same dusty wandering-in-the-dessert-at-night sound, with almost exactly the same drum patterns and bass notes. However, this time it really stands out and practically takes you by surprise. Suddenly with a prompt change in tempo and volume, the song's chorus erupts violently into an enraged dirge that is fueled by crashing cymbals and melancholy cries. Possibly the most haunting song I've came across and at 13 minutes long, its a rare chance to take in hollowing, depressing music thats difficult to sit through, but easy to imagine all sorts of ideas that could have inspired this song. The ending of this album is something other bands should take note of - ending on an absolute high - not necessarily being overly joyous or eager, but being beyond awesome. 'Popplagi>' is the albums second pinnacle and is to me, what the end of the world would sound like. A subtly ascending apocalyptic anthem. Once again it uses the same recipe of building the song up, but nothing can prepare you for the amount of momentum and force this song creates. The bass comes to life for the first time on the album, along with devastating drums and the falsetto wails from the vocalist. Its almost scary how intense this song is, especially 9 minutes in. Its as if the drummer was in shackles throughout the album, and only now does he break through and go absolutely mental, showing off his courageous technical ability.
Despite its dull, sombre moments, the sheer brilliance of the greater tracks makes it nigh on impossible to rate this lower than 5. Besides, the songs I'm not particularly fond of, may be someone else's ideal song, which sums up the album - its not everyones cup of tea, but it's definitely top notch in my books.