Monday, June 16, 2008

Capsule Review - með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Sigur Rós - með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
(trans: with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly)

JTM Grade: 97%

Remember the first time you heard Sigur Rós? I do. That otherworldly voice, singing an invented language (Hopelandic), was an instrument unto itself. It somehow captured the ineffable nature of music. I remember seeing Sigur Rós in concert and falling under a semi-hypnosis state during the performance. It was the musical equivalent to a spiritual experience. Sounds ridiculous, I know.

Ágætis Byrjun (1999) was their second full-length album, but the first that gained universal acclaim and notoriety for the Icelanders. It's a flat-out masterpiece. We can agree on that. Since that time, Sigur Rós have released two fine LPs and a couple other recordings but sadly, I began to take them for granted. They lost their allure. The majesty and beauty was still there but the power was not. I grew impatient with their songs, waiting around for the inevitable climax after 7 minutes of gradual build-up. Yes, it was all very pretty but it wasn’t often that I went back and listened to a Sigur Rós album deliberately.

All that changes with með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. What was old is new again. How best to describe this triumph of an album? In my mind, this is what spring in Iceland must be like, or maybe global warming has settled in and it ain't so bad after all. Whatever freeze/thaw metaphor you choose, the headline here is that Sigur Rós have lifted up the veil. The beautiful dirges remain (and better than ever) but what’s refreshing is a newfound jubilance. I’ll even throw out that terrible word, whimsy. The new and improved Sigur Rós sound downright whimsical. And to think that you could even consider dancing to a Sigur Rós song is nothing short of absurd, but that’s exactly my impulse when I hear the opening track, 'Gobbledigook.' As an added bonus, a majority of the songs clock in at less than 5 minutes, and astonishingly, the final song 'All Alright' is sung in English. I prefer the sacred characteristic of the made-up language, so hopefully that's a one-off stunt. That being said, it speaks volumes about their intentions. Sigur Rós are consciously branching out into new territory here. In fact, they're leaping forward.

I could go on and on, but I think the cover art speaks for itself. The image encapsulates the beauty, the mood and the emotion this music instills. And what music it is.

No comments: