Awaiting a new Sigur Rós album is like awaiting the next Wes Anderson film. The Icelandic foursome began in their homeland with Von, an album that wasn’t heard by many; Anderson began with Bottle Rocket, a great film that wasn’t seen by many. Both have now become cult staples since Von‘s recent reissue and the ensuing success of Anderson’s later films. Ágætis Byrjun became the quirky spark that lit a fire under the band and led to their worldwide critical acclaim. Thus, it was their Rushmore. Still, both were mired in that `cult’ status trend from which they could not seem to escape. That is until the band released ( ), an album with a bunch of unnamed tracks, expansive, morose and angelic, and so, akin to The Royal Tenenbaums. The music of Sigur Rós is dramatic and dreamy, layered, complex and intricate. There is nothing simple about it. Anderson’s films are much the same way. Every scene is a tableau that can be dissected into parts. Sadness, humor and pathos run through each moment as if no second of film is wasted. And now we come to 2005. Christmas of last year saw the release of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a touching and humorous look at the life of a deep sea documentarian. What would be its Sigur Rós equivalent? That would be Takk… which is Icelandic for `thanks.’
Not that I could tell, but Sigur Rós’ early albums were all sung in a made up language called “Hopelandic,” rather than their native tongue. Takk… finds the band going back to their mother language, much, I’m sure, to the delight of their hometown fans. But the lyrics have never been an integral part of the enjoyment of their albums. I mean, after all, how many of you out there actually speak in “Hopelandic”? Instead, their music is all about emotional highs and lows. Some were saddened by the band’s last album, finding it depressing and slow. Well, fear not! Takk… is triumphant, celebratory, glorious and exultant. It is full of songs that could be played as lovers find each other after years of being apart, embracing each other and whirling about as tears flow with the ultimate joy of love. Third song “Hoppipolla” is the best example of this, as piano and drums combine to create a rhythmic soundtrack to a beautiful love story. The song is reprised right after, in a sort of segue, as all the songs are considered pieces of one big framework, as albums really should be. After an intro, “Glosoli” opens things up with a slow paced bassline and then builds with “With or Without You” proportions and likenesses into a steady march of percussion that further builds into a sonic wall of noise crescendo that exemplifies both strength and surrender at the same time.
“Hufupukar” features the signature a castrati vocals that make them so recognizable, but at about six minutes in, the song transforms to polka. Yes, you read that correctly, polka, and it fits. It reminded me of various Beatles asides in some of their later albums. “Saeglopur” begins with a Tori Amos-esque piano introduction before they drop it like it’s hot springs at about two minutes in. Never has Sigur Rós sounded as frighteningly ominous. “Milano” is the longest song on the album, and that’s saying something. Clocking in at over ten minutes, it takes about a fifth of that time for instruments to finally coalesce into a recognizable mesh. Again, things become more dramatic near halfway through, because good things come to those who wait. There’s almost a seventies rock feel to this song once it gets going. “Gong” is probably the most like My Bloody Valentine that I’ve heard in a while, at least like Kevin Shields’ solo work on the Lost in Translation soundtrack. I could go on about the remaining tracks, but I’m sure your eyes are getting as tired as my neck and fingers, but with the music of Takk… playing beside me, it all seems to go away.
Sigur Rós took somewhat of a break after their last album three years ago, just like Wes Anderson did following Tenenbaums. Since then, they have released a single with some extra tracks and videos, performed for an avant-garde dance troupe, and putzed around Iceland, not wanting to rush genius. And let me tell you, genius came. Since September 13th is massively full of good new music being released, it’s difficult for me to tell you that this is the one to buy. What I can tell you is that if you don’t, you’ll probably feel like something’s missing in your life. It’s that good. Very rarely can music change one’s life, yet this is an album that I’m confident will affect me for quite some time. I feel like I should be the one saying Takk…
U2- The Joshua Tree
Sigur Rós- Ágætis Byrjun
Radiohead- OK Computer