I once had a nervous breakdown listening to Sigur Ros’ ( ) album. It wasn’t an actual a nervous breakdown, but probably more of a panic attack. I was working at a soulless job that I hated and my personal life and ego had just suffered a devastating blow. I sat in my grey chair, my legs tucked under a grey desk, entering insurance rates into a grey computer, surrounded by grey walls.
My only escape was what came through the headphones tucked into my ears. As Jon Thor Birgisson’s ethereal yet dirge-like voice howled through my head, life began to stretch out before me. I saw myself twenty years in the future, working the same job, yet down the hall in the manager’s office. I had a nice house in the suburbs and a plain wife with a penchant for scrap booking. Suddenly my eyes began to burn and well up as my heart began to pound. I tried to take a deep breath, but it caught in my throat as my breathing became labored. I tore the earphones out, but the sad, high-pitched keening continued to reverberate in my head. I inadvertently shouted to my co-workers that I was going for an early lunch as I made a mad dash to the bar around the corner. Two beers and two shots of whisky later I calmed down and shook the song from my head.
On reflection, the soft sadness of ( ) was probably not the best choice considering my weakened frame of mind. Now Sigur Ros has released Takk… and while it has the band’s definitive sound, it’s not likely to send me into a depressive tailspin.
The album begins with the songs “Takk…” and “Glósóli,” which is immediately recognizable as Sigur Ros. However, you also realize almost as quickly that this is a departure from the funereal sounds of ( ). It is nothing that can be described as up-tempo, but the music conveys a sense of joy and happiness to the listener. It has to be the music because I have no fucking idea what he’s singing about. All the songs could be about stomping on puppies for all my understanding of Icelandic or what is rumored to be their own language.
Sigur Ros follows the same formula used by bands such as Mogwai and Múm. This involves a very slow build, which is why six of the songs are over six minutes and the rest aren’t far behind. Often they start out with a simple piano or vocals to which bass, drums, violins, and horns are layered in as the song builds to crescendo. This is the point where you wonder how the intro of a tinkling of a children’s music box became this massive wall of sound. You don’t care, because you’re rocking.
It’s been three years since this four-piece from Iceland gave us anything new. It was worth he wait. Sigur Ros has used the time to put a lot of polish on the album, which flows beautifully. I may not know what the lyrics say, but Sigur Ros can convey emotion and imagery through music better than most bands out there today.
Video for “Glósóli” – http://www.sigur-ros.is/sirkus.html