Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sigur Rós

Frustrated that I woke up early the other day for the fall tour dates ticket presale and didn't get a damn thing, I started poking around the Sigur sites. Also, I found a poster today reminding me that their new album is coming out on the 23rd!

What I discovered when I got to is that you can already listen to the album, streaming, for free!! I'm doing that right now. So far, I have to say, this is a real transformation for Sigur Rós. This metamorphosis was evident in gobbledigook, whose energy was as young and vibrant as the actors in its video.

This light, youthful abandon carries into the second track, and it becomes clear that Sigur Rós is not just about the long, dramatic epic anymore. They are also capable of calling in quick songs that pack a flowery punch to the ears. In and out.

Track three is a quiet ballad, soft and sweet. If Jónsi didn't have such a distinctly sweet voice, you would easily forget that for three tracks you've been listening to the band that brought you albums like Ágætis byrjun.

These tunes are almost pop. ALMOST. There is still a quiet sense of importance, of the impending arrival of something great, something bigger than us.

Then comes track five. As it begins, "festival" is cavernous and echoing, the song's lyrics remind one of "e-bow" from (), as though the original track had been stripped down and sung by Jónsi alone in the dark. The song serves as a reminder that the somber tones that have made the band the tearjerker that it is are still incredibly relevant to the band. By the end, the sound is big and bold, pompous and seemingly in fanfare. Hoorah! So beautiful.

The choir and strings on track seven are delightful and cinematic, and still somehow Sigur Rós. Yet another track that proves just how flexible this band really is.

On "All Right," the last track, Jónsi sports English lyrics. Almost every Sigur Rós song to date has been in Icelandic, the exception being all of (), the lyrics of which were all in the made-up language of Hopelandic. But don't get your hopes up about finally being able to understand the words in a Sigur Rós song. Despite the vocals being featured, the words are surprisingly indistinguishable. They bleed into the song like dye in fabric, taking their time to fill the space. And while that means losing definite form and content, it also means a beautiful layer that operates just the same as the vocals always have. This track is maudlin, sober, like a funeral march - a fitting end, perhaps, for the end of the album. It ends silently and sparsely, sneaking out the back door before you can realize it's gone.

Overall, the album is pretty great. It lacks some of the things that have made me adore Sigur Rós, but provides new ones. This band is extraordinary and sensational, and they have begun to sweep the music world anew of late. It's a beautiful thing to watch.

Also, if you finish listening to the stream of the whole album, you get lots of fun behind-the-scenes video clips to enjoy as well.

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