J Bov Explodes Rhetorically

I’m About to Sit Down With the New Sigur Rós Album

I love Sigur Rós. If you haven’t heard of them; they’re an Icelandic group that I am loath to call ‘Rock’, even though there are obvious tinges of it in their work. The majority of their work is very soulful, very ambient and very, very Icelandic. Having listened to them almost non-stop while I was there a while ago I can say with confidence that their music matches the terrain and attitude of the country perfectly.

I’ve loved them since I first heard them on Italian MTV in 2005. Their album Takk… had just been released and I was holidaying in Italy. I flipped on the TV in the hotel and eventually found MTV2, which after a few minutes began playing the beautiful and heartbreaking video for the wonderful ‘Untitled #1’ (or ‘Vaka’) from the 2002 album () which you can watch for yourself here.

I was hooked. I inhaled everything they had done. I loved Ágætis byrjun() and Takk… and  I’m fond of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. I’ll admit I’m less fond of Von but I’m willing to grant them one duff studio album out of five (six if you count Rímur in 2001, but that one’s a bit weird).

Their film Heima (which means ‘Home’, fittingly enough) follows them on a tour around their homeland, interspersing live footage of the band with shots of the sort of breathtaking landscapes and settings that Iceland has in spades. It’s one of my top five films, and almost certainly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

So now we come to Valtari, the new album due to be released in most places on the 28th of May this year (29th in America). A lower quality version of the full album was leaked onto the ‘net fairly recently.

I have it, though I still intend to buy the album when it’s released properly, obviously. I’m about to listen to it.

Here we go:

Two tracks in; so far, so Sigur Rós. By which I mean absolutely incredible. Beautiful harmonies, fantastic arrangement, just brilliant. There’s something very special about the piano work in the second track ‘Ekki múkk’; it sounds… thick I suppose. Very bass-heavy, lovely, round sounds.

I’m slightly over midway through, and I am just blown away. This album is fantastic. Absolutely one of their best in my mind.

Stylistically it’s very similar to Ágætis byrjun, in that it’s very ambient and floaty, but a few tracks end with heavy, hard-hitting and epic (in the true sense, not the ridiculous internet sense) crescendos. It’s by no means the same album, but it feels like it.

Track 5, ‘Dauðalogn’, has an interesting, almost hymnal, vocal arrangement that starts about 5 minutes in. It’s lovely, and it segues fluidly into the very ()-esque strings and piano work in the next track, ‘Varðeldur’.

Two more to go, then I’ll be back.

That was just wonderful. An absolute joy to listen to.

The last two tracks bring the tempo way back down, and leave you relaxed after the up-tempo middle section. It’s fantastic album-craft, holding already brilliant music in a framework that makes sense and is coherent.

I urge you, with all my might, to snap this up when it’s released (28th of May, remember). If you already like Sigur Rós you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t really heard them, I suggest you listen to Takk… first, but this would not be a bad starting point at all.

It’s just… lovely.

It’s beautiful.

I really bloody like it.


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