Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun

Decade - 1990's

Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun - 1999

Sigur Ros is already one of my favourite bands and Agaetis Byrjun an album I already love. That said, I decided to listen more closely than I normally do, so shut myself in my room in the dark with my ipod.

Much has been written about Sigur Ros. They've been known to make perfectly sane people spontaneously burst into tears and make normally reserved music critiques write about them as if they are the second coming. Those who love them usually become insanely hyperbolic and throw around terms like "tears of God" and "soul crushingly amazing". Dectractors find them pretentious, boring and an emotional gimmick

Agaetis Byrjun (from hereon just AB because it's just TOO hard to type) is sung mostly in Icelandic, sometimes in Hopelandic (a made up language). For someone lyric driven like myself, it's strange to love a band that relies completely on the music to convey whatever they are trying to express. Lyrics usually guide our interpretations of the music (sometimes causing us to interpret the music itself contrary to how it truly sounds) - but Sigur Ros can make you realise you really don't need them when a band can articulate emotion this well. It's almost like learning a new language, and eventually you can read each song as well as you can read a lyric sheet and understand without thinking what the music is trying to do.

Sigur Ros & AB isn't perfect. There are times when they are guilty of over-emoting and contriving a response from the listener, as in the case of Staralfur, which can sound a bit like a Hollywood soundtrack at times. Flugufrelsarinn also shows up their occasional slide into over-repetitiveness.

Those times are rare throughout the album however and more often than not, Sigur Ros get it exactly right. The use of "amazing" stops being hyperbole and suddenly becomes insufficient when listening to Svefn g englar and Vidrar vel til loftarasa. AB manages to embody both grand and intriciate emotions at the same time, but this complexity never effects the listenability of the album. For all of its grandeur, it has melodies that stick in your head better than the most radio friendly tune.

Sigur Ros can take an open mind - tracks can last up to 10 minutes and take time to build. But they are worth it, and once Jonsi's stunning falsetto kicks in you start to wish the tracks were even longer.

Score - 9.5/10

Best Tracks - Svefn g englar, Vidrar vel til loftarasa, Olsen, Olsen

Genre/sounds like - Post-Rock

Recommended - Definitely


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