Review Summary: ambient bliss delivered by Iceland's finest.
Since being exposed to the genre of post-rock, I have encountered some incredible listening experiences, including Yndi Halda's Enjoy Eternal Bliss
and Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
, but I find that I always come back to ( )
every so often. An album of substance and compassion, it makes little difference that its perceived pretentiousness makes it difficult for me to justify a classic rating; I heard this album at a very important time in my life. It was my first exposure to the genre and until then I was quite content with listening to nothing but My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy. ( )
acted as a catalyst to my exploration of deeper, more ethereal music - akin to my love for Death Cab For Cutie's Transatlanticism, the album I correlate to a long lost summer, Sigur Ros' ( )
is, for me, the album reminiscent of a bitterly cold, but beautiful winter.
The album is split into two; the first four tracks embody a more light, optimistic feel, unlike the latter four which are brooding, bleak and cathartic. The entire album's vocals lie in unintelligible lyrics in "Vonlenska"(Hopelandic) which is a language spoken only by vocalist Jon Birgisson. This method ensures that the vocals sound melodic and rhythmic; they're designed to fit the atmosphere of the music. Hopelandic lacks grammar and meaning and is without the conceptual basis of language (thus the pretension). However, it works surprisingly well in the context of the music, as it allows Jon to utilize his falsetto. This is relevant from the opening song Untitled 1 (Vaka)
, which showcases Jon's angelic voice and gives the listener a general idea of what to expect for the rest of the album. Despite how repetitive the vocals are on this song (and the entire album) they're easily the best on ( )
; Jon's voice goes so high that it sounds surreal. Untitled 3 (Samskeyti)
, on the other hand, is without vocals (though humming can be heard faintly in the background), and is lead by a piano chord progression and french horn. Continuously, the two progress side by side and become increasingly louder as the song expands. I must admit that not many songs have the ability to literally bring me to tears, but this song often renders me quite emotional. The song is ideal for reminiscing and being consumed by thought. The entire album is worth the download just for this one song, which isn't only one of the best Sigur Ros songs, but one of the best songs ever produced. Emotionally connected or not, a person would have to be very jaded not to appreciate its beauty.
The second group of songs represent a contrast of moods. Untitled 8 (Popplagio)
, (which, ironically enough translates to "The Pop Song") is the epitome of dismal music and sounds relentlessly bleak. The song does well to evoke a brooding frame of mind and is a refreshing change of pace that stands out for its intensity and speed, unlike the rest of the album. It's the most sombre song on here and astounds with drummer Orri Dyrason's epic finale, both unconventional and unexpected. I think what Sigur Ros were aiming for when they released an album with no track titles and incomprehensible lyrics was not to appear pretentious and childish, but rather to give the listener an alternative to perceiving their music. A lot of imagery rushes through my head when spinning this album, especially when Untitled 3
comes on, which is the point: because there are no lyrics to relate to, the listener sees it in whichever light they choose. This should always result in a positive outcome because we subconsciously create a theme and imagined aesthetic to suit our preferences. The only major fault that obstructs my reverie is, while in no way bad, Untitled 5 (Alafoss)
, which brings the album to a lull. The problem is that it's too long for its own good and doesn't end up going anywhere. Thankfully, after that we're graced with Untitled 6 (E-Bow)
, a touching, graceful song with clean, euphonious vocals. Haunting.
It's certainly a daunting task to try and encapsulate Sigur Ros' sound; they're pretty original and sound like themselves. ( )
is an album that should be experienced by not only those with an appreciation towards post-rock music, but music in general. This is one of those 'life changing' albums that you hear about every so often. Untitled 1
has an outstanding vocal performance; Untitled 3
is beautiful and emotionally fraught; Untitled 7
is ominous and Untitled 8
is dark and epic and the rest helps fill the record out perfectly. This album is more diverse and accessible than you will likely give it credit for on first spin, but after a while it becomes clear that there's a lot going on in this record. Essential listening material.