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.
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.
on 30 September 2016
This albom is so well known that I won't review the music. Who orders a vinyl LP these days without already knowing and loving the music they are buying? So my comments are limited to the quality if the recording and the vinyl itself. Both are fantastic. The vinyl weighs a ton and seems to be heavier than other 180gm pressings. The sound is brilliant, loads of headroom and space with no hint of a the compression some modern recordings suffer from. Highly recommended
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.
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 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 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 9 June 2008
You're ten years old and it's Christmas morning. You haven't been greedy towards Santa this year, you've just asked for eleven presents and that is all you want. As long as you get those - even if you get nothing else - it'll make your Christmas so special. You're ten now, a tiny bit older and a tiny bit wiser, and what you've asked for is just a shade more mature than last year.
So, it's 7am, so you race downstairs, pausing only to look at the gentle blizzard raging outside. You count your presents under the tree and they number eleven. The signs are good. Then you open them and to your immense delight you get exactly what you wanted, and they are all wonderful, surpassing your expectations. In fact they are all so wonderful you cannot decide which is your favourite - it's just impossible.
And so to "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust". A new Sigur Ros album is just like Christman Day, of course. But Christmas Day seldom lives up to all the expectations - sometimes the turkey doesn't defrost in time, sometimes the crackers are a bit wimpish, sometimes the Christmas Dr Who is a bit of an anti-climax. But have no fear children, this new album is like those wonderful Christmas Days you remember when you were ten years old.
"Gobbledigook" begins matters in a carefree, happy-go-lucky way that bodes extremely well, and the euphoria is maintained by the tub-thumping "Inní mér syngur vitleysingur". Track 3, "Góðan daginn" is a delightful little acoustic-guitar and vocal piece (thankfully Jonsi is singing properly so far, not in Hopelandish), Track 4 "Við spilum endalaust" has you jumping once again with thumping bass and drums. Halfway it's time for a rest and "Festival" calms you right down again (unfortunately Hopelandish makes its first appearance) with five minutes of Jonsi and some etherael sounds that take you right back to "()", then Track 4 seems to invade again. From this point the album does seem to lose just a smidgeon of momentum, although "Suð í eyrum" with its crunching drum loop just manages to keep you engaged enough. "Ára bátur" seems to be a re-imagined version of the previous track which is slightly confusing. Too very short tracks, "Fljótavík" and "Straumnes" follow, calming things down even further, both little vingnettes of aural beauty. To round things off we get "All alright" in which Jonsi signs in English, although he sings with such a seeming lack of enthusiam it's slightly difficult to work out what he's singing about.
It's difficult to know where to place this in the Sigur Ros canon. It's certainly a progression from "Takk", and smacks more of instant gratisfaction than either "Takk" or "()". There are no forgettable tracks - ones that you instantly skip through as with those afore-mentioned albums, and every song is sturdy enough to stand on its own two feet without the other tracks having to offer support. This gives this album such strength and such solidity.
So Happy Christmas! Put this down on your list, then rub it out and go out and buy it - why wait for Santa?
Those seeking a minimalist musical experience then this is not for you. The band and producer appear to have thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the mix including heavenly choirs, massed orchestral ranks on top of the usual rock instruments and vocals.
I've played the album a number of times now and it's been a slow burner.The usual mix of sombre slow ballads and stirring anthems. Some of these anthems a bit OTT if you ask me and nothing that stands out and grabs you or makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
There were stages when that falsetto voice started to grate and I wondered...'are these brilliant or are they a case of the emperors new clothes?'.
At the moment it doesn't feel like a disc that will sit on the top of my pile for months. More an album that will shoved on the shelf with the rest of the 'S's' in a week or two.
on 18 July 2008
I love Sigur Ros, and this is a fine album but I cannot help but feeling disappointed. It is indeed another step towards more mainstream audiences, with noise levels toned down and awkward silences ridden of - but this isn't the problem, it's only natural that this would have happened. The problem is that the pain is gone, and without it their music is just some interesting arrangements and atmospheric tunes.
Takk was more commercial that the masterpiece that is Ágaetis Byrjun, but the levels of emotion remained high. Even the last release before this album, the single Hljomalind, which was their first proper pop song structurally, retained some grittiness.
This album, however, loses that almost completely. The first track, Gobbledigook, is unique and raises expectations for what's next, but it is then followed by Inni Mer and Vith Spilum, two tracks that are simply - I know, blasphemy, but - awful! They are like Hoppipolla without the soul, which leave them sounding a bit like Scandinavian Eurovision entries. Things improve from the 6th track onwards, but they never peak.
It is still a good album of course, but a massive disappointed. I've tried to give it time to grow on me, but as time goes back it just sounds more average.