Sigur Rós Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust(EMI, XL Recordings) Buy it from Insound
At first you think you pressed the wrong button on your iPod, calling up the Animal Collective rather than the chilly Icelanders, Sigur Rós, until you realize it would be pretty difficult to confuse Sung Tongs with Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. But that’s the feeling you get when you hear the freak folk drums, scattershot acoustic guitars and stuttering backing vocals of Gobbledigook. Even after you regain your composure you know you’re hearing a wholly new Sigur Rós. The follow up, Inní mér syngur vitleysingu, confirms it. This is a welcoming, expansive, one might even say revitalized band of laconic snowmen. Damnit, this one sounds like a hit single on Mars! I, for one, am glad. I said no takk to Takk, the band’s hopelessly boring last album, on which all the inspiration that fueled Ágætis byrjun seemed to completely evaporate in the wintry aether. Here they have regained a significant amount of footing, if not all the magic.
Perhaps the change was inevitable, as the slow burn of unparalleled beauty ran dry about halfway through ( ). Here, they strike a balance between the pop gestures and the now classic Sigur sound. Jónsi Birgisson’s haunting falsetto is still in fine form, and he uses it great effect on the 9 minute Festival and other tracks, showing he can still kick it old school. But for good or ill, the old school stuff is the least interesting material on the record. The only thing that really works to my ears is the lovely Fljótavík, based on a tried and true piano figure that really gets under your skin the way their best stuff always does. I’ll be honest, I could listen to album after album of this kind of Sigursong if they were willing and able to churn them out. For the most part they appear to be forsaking content for mood on too many pieces instead of insisting on both. All Alright is a perfect example. It’s a song that “sounds” beautiful, but doesn’t really go anywhere and so succeeds at evoking while failing to satisfy. It’s more like an experiment in slowness than a fully formed idea, and so tests the limits of our patience without really rewarding it. (For a prime example of a piece of music that does both, seek out Beethoven’s Molto Adagio from the String Quartet Opus 132, a work that could have been the prime inspiration for every good thing Sigur Rós has done up to this point).
Overall, it’s an improvement over the yawnfest of Takk, but not nearly as consistent as one would like. They probably should have leaned heavier in the new direction, as that is where the most inspired material lies. I’m going out on a limb to predict this is where the band is going next.7 July, 2008 - 17:48 — Alan Shulman