Sigur Ros is one of those bands that can be defined only as experimental. Their new album, “Takk,” is an interesting ride. The title, which means “thanks,” is the fourth LP from the eccentric Icelandic band. This marks the first album sung in their native tongue rather than “Hopelandic,” the made-up language all of their previous albums were sung in. It doesn’t matter though, because any listener not familiar with Icelandic won’t know what the hell lead singer Jonsi Birgisson is saying anyway. It doesn’t mean that the music is not accessible _” you don’t have to understand the words to understand the beauty.
Sigur Ros is increasingly popular in Europe. They have won many accolades, including an MTV music video award two years ago. It’s been harder for the rest of the world to catch up to their sound, though. There isn’t an experimental section at the local music store, but if there was, Sigur Ros albums would fill it up.
This album will most likely be a staple for coffee house anarchists, art college dropouts and the kids who pretend to be indie hipsters. The truth is that it should be a staple for everyone else as well. These are not songs you will hear on a Clear Channel radio station or even most college stations, but it’s music that could quite possibly be categorized as one of the best albums of the year thus far.
This album is a departure from their 2002 release ,”( ),” in that it presents itself as more accessible. Their past albums in general were weird experimental ramblings destined for independent-film soundtracks. For the most part, this follows the same path, but some of the songs will provide shining lights that will appeal to a larger audience. Songs like “Glosoli” and “SA?glopur” provide beautiful, brooding guitars that start off slow but eventually turn into a wonderful arrangement of strings, horns and loud rock. This provides the few times on the album where you can justifiably dance and not just nod your head or stare into space with the odd, but happy, sound.
Tracks like “HoppA-polla” and “Se Lest” sound like a cross between a 19th century music box and the soundtrack to an Atari video game system. When you first hear Birgisson sing on these tracks, you may mistake it for a female voice. It’s very soft, high pitched and the sound envelopes you. You have to respect the vocal range that he has. Anyone who thinks a band like Evanescence has vocal range should listen to this and be ashamed of themselves.
The one major disappointment is the longest song on the album, “MA-lano”. It is 10 minutes of what sounds like an orchestra tuning up, mixed into standard 4/4 drum beats with haunting melodies. It’s not original and it just meanders into nothingness. A 10 minute song better be pretty entertaining to keep my attention and stop me from clicking to the next track.
It takes a certain listener to appreciate this album. Even then, you have to be in the right mood. Sigur Ros is not a band that will be accessible to the American mainstream, but that doesn’t mean those of us in the know can’t enjoy it.
If you like Radiohead, but hate their pretentiousness; if you like classical music, but want some rock; or if you are looking for some good calming music that you can relax or fall asleep to, this is the album for you.