Sigur Rós


Engimatic bunch of Icelanders who create really beautiful soundscapey music.

lineup: uh, I'll be damned if I can figure that out.

review index: Agaetis Byrjun / ()

missing albums: their first album, which doesn't seem to be in print; also a couple of EPs

Agaetis Byrjun - 1999

Rating: *****
Best songs: Starálfur, Svefn-g-englar, Ny' Batterí...dangit, speak American, foreigners!
Worst songs: nyet. er...nein. nö?


People often ask me, "Cole, why don't you give more five-star ratings?". Actually, I'm not sure anyone has asked me that, but it seemed as good an opening line as any. Either way, the reason is this: a five-star album has to be one that completely blows me away. Not just your ordinary album, in other words. Something that seems above the grasp of human imperfection, yet still was created by real live people. Put simply, something that's just musically transcendental. This is the case with the album that's titled up there, nice and centered so you can read it clearly. This is a wonderfully brilliant, absolutely damn-near perfect slice of aural scintillation. Given that the only singing on here is (I presume) in Icelandic, and the songs are all really long, it may not be the most accessible of works (it took several listens for me to get it), but it sure as hell is worth spending some time on.

I suppose you might want to know how it sounds. Well, pretty much, the songs are slow and based on a few droning organ or string (as in orchestral) chords. Rather than changing that, they just build on it. Sometimes things coalesce into a more-or-less catchy vocal melody (as is the case with "Svefn-g-englar"), but more often than not they just shove stuff into the mix until everything pulsates with a bunch of shining beauty...or something gay like that (best example is "Starálfur", which has some of the prettiest string arrangements I've heard in a while). Is that any good? I hope so.

It should also be noted that this album is 72 minutes long. And it entertains me for just about every second. (I'll admit, the end, "Avalon", doesn't hold much interest for me.) Who else could do that? Tori Amos sure as hell couldn't. (Sorry, there goes my New Year's resolution...) So, I say give it a try. It won't hurt you. And you sure as hell won't hear it on K-ROCK.

() - 2002

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: 1, 8, 3, 4
Worst songs: 5


Again with the obfuscation. The album title is a pair of parentheses, the songs have no title, and the singing is even more incomprehensible. I'd find this irritatingly pretentious if the Jamie Lynn-Siegler Roses (okay, that was a stretch) weren't such a great band.

At least, Agaetis Byrjun was obvious greatness. This is more like...pretty good. The band has eschewed the strings and horns and things and seem to be concentrating on more guitar and keyboard-based stuff. And instead of wonderful transcendance, the focus is more on pleasant prettiness. Which they still do quite well (track 1, for example), but it is kind of disappointing. The worst offense is track 5, which manages to do something they haven't managed before: be boring. On the other hand, track 8 builds up into an exciting climax, and the rest is pretty entertaining, if not genius. So that's that.

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