Sigur Rós's astonishing 1999 LP, "Ágaetis Byrjun", was unreplicable. In the years since, they've made catchier songs and noisier songs; but nothing quite matches the otherworldly ambience of their early masterpiece. "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" marks a change of direction. In short, it's the first time Sigur Rós have sounded like a band, rather than a school of whales at the bottom of a fjord.
The first four songs are fresh, sunkissed, acoustic, playful: you'd hardly believe it's still Sigur Rós, but it all works beautifully. The message is clear: this is a fun album, a soundtrack for summer, for festivals, for beaches, for running naked across roads. After this brilliant opening, the album loses momentum a little (in particular, "Ára bátur" is overlong and overblown, with choirs and orchestras battling with the vocals for space in your ears), but it's all done with enough verve to keep your finger away from the skip button. "Með suð" is by far Sigur Rós's most accessible record, and is a fine place for newcomers to start.
The bottom line is that "Með suð" is good news: the successful sonic evolution of one of the most consistently interesting bands in the world today.
on 28 November 2008
I think this album is a transitional one for Sigur Ros. They've become a band that had a specific sound and they were no doubt aware that they needed to develop their style to avoid stagnation.
With their latest release there are clear signs that the band wanted to make a different kind of a record. The songs are shorter, more acoustic sounding and generally more upbeat. They've tried to rely less on tried and tested ways of working and moved towards spontaneity and improvisation.
At least half of the album sounds a little different for Sigur Ros especially with the single "Gobbledegook" with its tribal drumming, hand claps and chanting. A couple of the tracks almost border on indie pop which would have been very out of place on the "( )" album from a few years ago.
The rest of the album is on more familiar ground but at the same time it doesn't feel like a band going through the motions. The track "Festival" bridges the two styles of the album by sounding beautifully sad and slow to begin with and then upbeat and euphoric towards the end.
If there was one criticism it's only that taken as a whole it feels more like a collection of songs than a carefully constructed album. Previous releases felt like they had been carefully planned out whilst this one feels more like a collection of songs that they happened to be working on at the time (if this makes sense).
I think it will be interesting to hear what they do next. They've had the courage to try out new ideas so who knows what this will lead to?
on 7 July 2010
Sigur Ros, Victory Rose - If the battle is one for my heart, then victory has been achieved. Cascading with energy, power and emotion: this album is the crowing glory to the band in a world of their own. Sigur Ros are now on indefinite hiatus, when I found out I was saddened deeply, as I imagine all other Sigur Ros fans were, but if this is their last album, then my god it is it worthy of their honour.
There are so many moments within this album that can be considered artistic purity. True music. True brilliance. I can't express in words how much this album means to me, and could mean to anyone who listens to it.
If you are contemplating buying this album then I ask you not to hesitate a moment longer, buy. Don't delay for every second you are without this album is a second you are not living to the full.
In the year Sigur Ros released their first album "Von", it sold 313 copies. Things have changed a lot in the past decade, and yet, they haven't. Their records are round and they play instruments, but that's about all they have in common with anyone. Their songs still have unique titles, their albums have unwieldy names, their artwork is still uniquely individual : the cover of this sums up the record in an instant : naked men and women running across a road, breaking with convention - not because it is an act of rebellion, but because it is what the heart feels is true.
From the off, Sigur Ros have never been so accessable, and yet it is still, utterly and completely filled with the trademarks of their sound : ascending rhythms, vistas of strings, ethereal otherworldly vocals that soar and elevate, music that eschews the convention of verse / chorus / guitar solo in favour of a unfolding panorama of invention. Sure, all this flowery language is so very 1986-NME-Cocteau-Twins, but then again, about the only thing that is familiar about this record is that you can buy it in shops.
Starting with the rampaging crescendo is "Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysinger" (rough transalation : "I have no idea what this means"), "Meo Suo I Eyrum..." is very possibly the greatest Sigur Ros record yet. It opens like a weird James hit single, then within 17 seconds takes an abrupt left turn into a fluffy Jesus & Mary Chain with a vast chorus. This record hints at a world yet unseen, touches upon the vast possibilities, takes the promises of other music, and leaves them all in the dust. You thought Radiohead were weird? Compared to Sigur Ros, Radiohead are Take That.
The first half of the record is vibrant, uplifting, all drums and choruses and massive swathes of indistinct angels trilling in your ears. The second half is quieter, more reflective, introspective half-seen glimpses of songs, an alien lullaby, or an insomniac sunset seen from the window of a transatlantic jetliner.
In fact, words are pretty much redundant to explain the intricate and unique world this record creates. Unlike any other music I've heard. Sigur Ros is immersive. It's the sound of music you hear on the stairs when two different records are playing at the same time, and you heard a new third, impossible song - and that is Sigur Ros, a world underneath your fingertips you didn't know existed. And its also the closest thing Sigur Ros have ever come to a conventional pop music : at times ("Ara Batur") it sounds like something Coldplay and Brian Eno would reject as far-too-weird. In one respect, Sigur Ros music is a blank canvas - there is no `meaning' except that we make ourselves, no interpretation but that we add. Every listener, every reader, everyone who's ever seen a film brings with them, unwitting or not, their baggage, their interpretation, their world, and creates something that is what the author intended but also, far far more than that. Sigur Ros music is impressionistic, foggy, a musical Rosharch Inkblot Test that provides the listener to create their own paradise and get lost in that forever.
The first truly great moment of this album occurs during track 2 - towards the end the music abruptly stops for a second, then bursts back in, louder and brighter than before. It's like the sun moving behind a cloud on a sunny day, then suddenly emerging from the other side. It's possible that, like me, when you hear this bit you'll grin, laugh, then punch the air. It's fantastic.
In my opinion this is Sigur Ros's best album, certainly their most consistent. Of the most noteworthy tracks here, track 1 is a percussive monster, track 2 is the most feelgood song I've heard in a long time, track 4 is also euphoric... and then we meet the epics.
"Festival" starts quietly but then, half-way through, a kick drum and a bass guitar charge to the front and the song changes into a hugely exciting - and loud - track. Soon after this comes the album's best track. "Ara Batur" is guaranteed to make me cry. The early part of the song is quiet and subdued, Jonsi singing beautifully until an orchestra and a choir join in. It is an extraordinary track.
After these two, the final four tracks are excellent but are more "typical" Sigur Ros. The much-discussed "All Alright" is indeed sung in English, but you'll still be hard-pressed to make out any of the lyrics.
Absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to hear what they do next.
on 17 June 2008
I was so cautious about this album, surely Sigur Ros couldn't top their previous LP 'Takk', which has spent more time on repeat in my CD player and iPod over the last 2 years than I care to remember - I even bough 3 copies in total (one for home, one for the car, one special edition to treasure)... But the unthinkable has happened!!!
So what is the album like? We firstly, if you liked previous tracks like Hoppipolla, Hljomalind or Agaetis Byrjun then you'll love it. Scratch that, if you like any of Sigur Ros' back catalogue then you'll love it - the album is a logical progression from previous works without abandoning all that we love about them. Almost all tracks will connect with the listener on first listen, and even those that feel they could be forgetable have a knack for sounding oh-so-familiar 2nd time around. However the album is notably shorter than other albums in their repetoire, at just under 1 hour, the album only includes 1 'epic' Sigur Ros track ('epic' like the ( ) album).
Gobbledigook, the album's opening track is a tricky one. It's raucus and youthful, and probably the most surprising track by the band so far - and an odd choice to open with. The timing unfortunatley really gets in the way of this track being 'sing-along-able', no matter how many times you listen to it. However it doesn't stop the listener from enjoying it from a voyeurs point of view (ie not part of it) and it does do a really good job of getting the album off to a blinding start.
It seems that 2nd track Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur is this year's Hoppipolla, and is destined to appear on the more sophisticated sporting event round-up VT, or even another advert for a David Attenborough nature show (!) And although at the end of track 2 you might find yourself thinking 'can the album get any better than this?', listen on!
Gotan Daginn is a mellow affair, in the vein of Agaetis Byrjun or Heima - a good track to watch the world go by in front of you. It has it's cute moments but it will surprise you at how quickly the song goes by. Vid Spilum Endalaust takes the listener back into Hoppipolla territory, which is a nice surprise to hear 2 of this kind of track on the album together!
Track 5 (Festival), although fairly long-winded (do not read 'epic') has by far the most catchy melody of the whole album, or even arguably their entire back catalgue. The first 4 minutes or so of Jonsi's solitary singing acts as a brilliant palette-cleanser prior to the album's 2nd half starting from the major breakdown in Festival... Think Glosoli but less progressive... the whistling at the end will YOU by the end of the album!
The album's 2nd half is a more subdued affair (do not read 'boring'), with the last beat-y track being the lush 'Sud i Eyrum' (track 6 - which leaves another 5 tracks relitively drum free). Ara Batur is similar in structure to Festival, yet it seems to flow-in better from previous tracks - there isn't such a stark contrast between it's neighbouring songs. The song itself is one of Sigur Ros' most sensitive works, Jonsi's vocals seem so fragile at times, yet perfectly beautiful. The track swells into a full orchestral and choir affair worthy of a classy and poignant end-credits for an intelligent blockbuster.
The remianing 4 tracks are quite a surprise to the listener, they seem to get more and more stripped down as they go, with my personal favourite Fljotavik. The tracks themselves are lowkey strings, vocals, and the odd piano or acoustic guitar. These tracks seem heavility influenced by their Heima Tour of 2007 as they seem a lot more intimate in terms of performance; they have an almost 'live' feel.
The closing track, All Alright, could have worked well as a secret track, with the final restrains of Straumnes (a coda to Fljotavik) most listeners would expect the album to have reached it's natural cadence and ended there, but the final track strips the album down to its bare minimum. Jonsi's vocals are so fargile they sound almost like they were sung in his sleep. Aparrently the lyrics are in english, although they are so murmered that they could be Hopelandic to most listeners.
If Takk was an album themed upon nature then Med Sud i Eyerum... is themed upon the memories of nature; the sound seems less a first-hand experience of nature and more third-hand in it's translation, although there are some distictly lush moments to remind us of the elemental backbone that Sigur Ros are all about. But like nature, the album isn't perfect; perhaps top heavy, perhaps not - it will depend on the listeners prefernce, although I imagine first time listeners to Sigur Ros will be ending their albums after track 7... listen on an you will be rewarded.
on 2 July 2008
I salivated at the prospect of Sigur Ros' latest offering as I couldn't get enough of them after the brilliant last CD/DVD, Heima. Sigur Ros are one of the few truly remarkable bands out there and their music is ethereal, beautiful, poignant and at times completely odd. While there are some wonderful pieces of music here-in, I don't think the album works as well as their previous albums. I'm just not sure Gobbledigook works for me but thereafter and as the album progresses, they claim you. I can understand the slight change in their work and fair play to the band, they are continuing to evolve and certainly are more accessible but I feel that this is slightly detrimental to the ethos of Sigur Ros. We love them because they are so out there on their own, producing music that is peerless. Still one of the best groups ever though!
on 18 June 2008
After finding out that music maestro 'Flood' was to produce their 5th album, I was a little,(some may say justified) cautious about this new offering from Icelandic cloud landscapers, Sigur Ros.
Their new and latest free download Gobbledigook, took me somewhat by surprise, it's a brave move. I couldn't help but think bands like 'The Flaming Lips' could carry this off with absolute ease, but as a Sigur Ros track, for me, didn't really work.
I couldn't help but think it's like someone taking a wild endangered animal, sticking it in a cage and getting it to perform tricks for a paying audience. Thankfully, the other tracks are as good as anything they have done previous. Some Sigur Ros purists still may be a little disappointed with its more structured sound, but for me, I'm happy to report, it still sounds pretty darn good.
I think it's a fine mix of lets try something new/with not wanting to alienate their core audience, the only slight problem for me is that at times it seems a little obvious and slightly mechanical. Compared to their usual style of organically producing stunning backdrops for movies that have never been made, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, may be a tad forced, I like my Sigur Ros tracks less obvious, taking something different from them every time I hear them.
Having said that, it isn't a criticism, just a personnel preference.
I read a review that said "some of the tracks sound a little OTT", couldn't help but laugh when you consider this is a band who live in Iceland, record music in churches and caves and sing in a made up language no one can decipher.
Sigur Ros remain superb, the back lash may have started, but if they had continued doing another Takk or ( ), the critical damage could have been far worst. At least it proves that Sigur Ros are not beyond criticism like some suggested. Sit back and enjoy, tracks Ára bátur & Festival are an absolute treat. Over blown syrup? .. yes, maybe, but isn't that why we like them?
on 6 February 2009
I really wanted this to be a five-star album, I really did! Sigur Ros have been producing top class album since 99's Agaetis Byrjun, and for a decade have provided moments of such untouchable ecstacy that, given their live shows, I thought that they had to eventually get it perfect on tape.
Let me do a quick review of the last few albums to put this in context:
Agaetis is really something, entirely different from anything I'd heard before, with moments such as the end climax of Vidrar Vel Til Lofstara (sp? - I'm doin this off the top of my head!) that are unforgetable. But it's too long, some of the songs are too long and too one-paced, and some of them sound too alike, to be able to give it five stars. Close, but no cigar.
Much the same could be said for (). 6 is a magnificent song - but isn't 4 basically a watered down version? And 5 and 7 - do they both need to be there?
I thought they'd done it with Takk, but now I'm not sure. Milano again is too long, and Hoppipolla 2 (afturback is it?) and Heysatan just isn't necessary. Again some wonderful moments but the overall album just falls short.
And so to Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, the new one. A new but not entirely different sound to kick us off with the wonderfully upbeat (I want to call it fun, with all the hand-clapping and la la la-ing) Gobledigook.
2 and 3 (I've forgotten to cut n paste the names) both carry on this theme. 2 is upbeat - the standout track on first listen and probably so on 100th. 3 is more downbeat but very much a Ros beauty.
The problem starts at 4. It's good but not unforgetable. This, apart from the magestic Festival (No.5)(almost two songs, but a singular sense of joy and wonder) and Aran Batur (No.7) could sum the rest of the album up. Towards the end there's something that sounds shamefully like filler. Aran Batur is one their moments though. Straight from the Ros school of 'build from nothing to epic crescendo', they throw everying and the kitchen sink at it, inlcuding a full choir and orchestra. And believe me it's not kitch, they pull it off with ample style!
I don't want to sound too harsh. The above reference to filler is only relative to Sigur Ros previous work. This is a very very good album that unfortunately, like previous efforts just falls short.
on 18 February 2009
This is an absolutely amazing album. If you dont have goosebumps after the first 5 songs, well; frankly you're not human.
Who cares if its in an uncomprehensible language (invent your own lyrics). Who cares if the final few songs a a bit of a let down compared to the first few (theyre still pretty damn epic). Who cares if the music lacks genre definiton (at my last attempt I put them down as neo-classical folk-rock).
This is emotive music at its very best, and you would be a fool to miss out on the bst album of 2008. Please, for your own sake: Buy this!!!!