on July 15, 2008
An ad for the album in the New Yorker, with nudes running across a country road on the cover, caught my eye. I found myself trying to translate the
words on the cover, and I couldn't even figure out the language. Even the script was unusual. It would be weeks before release date but I got to hear this incredibly powerful, yet simple and awesome music, for the first time on the internet, and it was love at first hearing. New to the computer, it was
also the first album purchase via the net. The music was like nothing
I've heard in my seventy seven years. I can't get over that I am hooked on what I thought would be essentially music for young people. This music is for all ages. Songs five, six, and seven are staggeringly beautiful and give me
horripilations and exaltation ever time I hear it. I have not yet listened to other works of Sigur Ros's. But this album contains music that reaches agelessness; stark, brilliant, spellbinding.
For some reason, the DVD would not play on my music system in the one room, but did on another system in the kitchen, and played on my Mac Pro,
where I downloaded it, and will transfer it to the160MG iPod, as soon as I learn how.
on June 24, 2008
That is what Sigur Ros's 2008 studio album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, translates to in English. This album sees the band breaking some new ground. This album is essentially a follow-up to two different Sigur Ros projects: the first being the emotional tour-de-force Takk... and the band's recent documentary, Heima, in which the band travels all over the Icelandic countryside doing shows for the people of the villages, many of them with very stripped down acoustic sets. If you've heard the first single, Gobbledigook, and you think Sigur Ros has sold out, think again. Granted this song is very much outside of their artistic tendencies, but this opening cut is really an outlier on the album. The rest of the album is very much a more optimistic, nonetheless, very Sigur Ros album. While we hear songs of epic scale like "Festival" and "Ara batur," we also hear more folky, stripped down arrangements from the band, most notably in "Illgresi." I think Sigur Ros is trying with this album to appeal to a broader audience without losing their soul to the music industry, and I think they've done it. This is evidenced by the band using more conventional and complicated song structures rather than repeating structures that unfold in an ebb and flow kind of way, varied instrumentation, shorter song lengths, shorter overall album length, and surprisingly enough, one song with ENGLISH lyrics. I think the band has found a niche with this album, being able to appeal to more than the people who listen to what Pitchfork media and Bob Boilen tell them to listen to, and yet, I think Pitchfork media and Bob Boilen will also tell us to listen to them. I think that with Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, the music snobs (of which I am a proud member) and the general public will find common ground. And with the nude frolickers on the cover art, who wouldn't at least be intrigued by this quartet from Iceland led by a guy who prefers to play his guitar with a cello bow?
on December 10, 2009
I was inspired to write this review as a result of a comment written about another amazon reviewer: "this guy hates everything." I am yet to write anything but a one star review, and I thought, will I merely be another snobbish curmudgeon eviscerating every piece of garbage that a world of commodified art tends to produce? This review is my unequivocal no! It is much easier to write a bad review, for while so much that is bad is bad in the same way, things that are truly beautiful seem to radiate their own, individual light (yes, I aped Tolstoy there!) It is difficult to write about something you love, our words can often fail to capture that which stirs in our hearts. For me, Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust is something like a counterpoint to ( ). ( ) as an album (also a 5 star work of genius in my opinion) is an epic meditation on pain and loss. I feel a great deal when I listen to it, but hope or joy are certainly not feelings that readily come to mind. The feelings are dark, intense, at time transcendental, but even with the punctuated elegance of tracks 3 and 4, I feel like I am in a place that is more akin to purgatory than heaven. In that sense, after the pain, meditation and depuration of ( ), Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust is in a sense reaching for the sky.
The music of Sigur Ros is constantly defined by a certain grappling with life and death. I think that the stark reality of death and the anxiety it creates is fundamental to their music. While ( ) seems to delve deeply into that vast crevasse of metaphysical doubt and ensuing anxiety that have become omnipresent in this post-modern era, Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust is their redemption song. ( ) tells us that we are all going to die. Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust says yes, we will die, but because life is transient we will love, cry and dance! It is life affirming in the deepest sense, raging against the dying of the light in the only way that will give us peace.
The album begins with Gobbledigoo, an effervescent, frolic into childlike abandon. You could almost hear the repeated vocal lines at the beginning, chorus and bridge as youthful taunts, but taunts lacking any malicious intent. They are simply crying to the shy kid staring at his feet in the corner, just let it all go, come and dance, it's time to play!
Dance is a word that comes to mind on the second track, seeing that Inní mér syngur vitleysingur has even forced a surly misanthrope such as myself to laugh, run and flail my limbs without abandon, whether I'm at home or frightening fellow commuters on the metro as the propulsive rhythm transfigures me into the dance commander! The bridge which swells with dynamic intensity and polyphonic grandeur is one of the most hope inspiring and blissful musical experiences that one will find anywhere. It is difficult to listen to this song and without be grateful for every moment we've been given in this life.
I would hate to refer to Gódan daginn as filler, it is calming, otherworldly and a wonderful transition between the two most expressively hopeful tracks on the album. Vid spilum endalaust gets us back onto the hope train with a similarly pounding piano/bass line which drives us forward but with that familiar and comforting (though somewhat more restrained) sense of joy and purpose.
The next seven tracks represent a slight transition. The first four are almost like the laughter, joy and celebration of life, love and friends, but festival ironically takes us out onto the verandah, cumulous clouds and a silver moon above, cigarette in hand, reflecting on the night and the mortality that comes creeping back to us when our serotonin levels start coming back down. But while there is a definite sense of melancholy that can be felt, it never reaches those depths of absolute loss that punctuate ( ). No, it is the ambivalence of death reminding us why it can be so painful, namely because we love so much. This feeling seems to permeate the rest of the album, hushed, delicate, intense love and the knowledge that one day it all ends. When we listen there is still joy still simmering in our hearts, but it's a joy tempered by time and tide. Ára bátur becomes the culmination of the ephemeral laugher of youth with the pained reminder of ultimate loss as it gradually builds into a tear wrenching crescendo that is simply sublime.
Here we are in this world, everything is fleeting, we love so deeply as the lines form on our faces and the unbearable lightness of being shines into every corner and crevice of our souls. And yet, somehow, the breeze rustling the leaves and the pallid light dripping from the sky grab our hearts and we no longer fear the terminus on this strange, beautiful journey. And as the last track reminds us, in the end, everything and everyone is all right. And yes my friends, it really is, even when it isn't...
on June 26, 2008
In the Heima video (spelled Heim by iTunes but not by Sigur Rós--for whatever reason?) Sigur Rós spoke of a pervasive yearning and desire to return home--'home' being spoken of in a far deeper sense than simply returning to Iceland. Sure, they were coming off a busy touring schedule and obviously missed the beautifully bleak, dreamscape countryside, along with its lovely people--all which played vital roles in shaping the band's musical identity. I certainly have no difficulty in understanding this sentiment. The music and video footage alone were enough to inspire me to begin planning an eventual trip to that oft forgotten land of mystery and romance. Sigur Rós are obviously quite tied to this place they know so well & who can blame them? Imagine what might have come of their music had they originated from elsewhere? Likely nothing. Therefore, I venture to say that Iceland itself is far more of an influence on their musical identity than anything happening in the chart-obsessed world of pop music. And thank God for that! On the present album, 'Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust,' I hear a refreshing reassessment and even a kind of reestablishment of the band's intrinsic identity with their cultural and musical heritage--something they began to express on the 'Hvarf-Heim' project. I would say the present album is the culmination of that return 'home.' The result is, quite naturally, a sound that's somewhat alien to what we're used to, but it's a sound that remains clearly rooted in the artistic identity of Sigur Rós. The primary changes, I would argue, are merely found in the album's sonic texture--most likely the result of the band having fresh production perspective. Certainly, no 'selling out' occurred. If anything, we're seeing the diametric opposite. But still, some will likely complain about the warmer, more acoustic-focused--dare I say?--'rootsier' sound. However, we must remember that people will nearly always complain when faced with change. Even when that change can so often be a very good thing. Change is a sign of life and of health. Stagnation is a sign of death and dying. When dealing with art that is authentic, pure inner-expression, at some point change becomes a 'necessary evil.' It is an inherent law of art's nature when there is spiritual evolution occurring within the artist. And I don't use the term evil in any traditional sense but more as a description of how the audience can sometimes feel when they're expecting one thing and suddenly experience another. Revulsion can be a natural, if unnecessary, reaction. But give it time. Because these are often the very works that turn out to be the purest and most bountiful step along the creative path. Personally, I think the change of sound is far less than overwhelming. In fact I welcome it with open arms and a fistful of stars. Five honestly doesn't seem quite enough.
on June 24, 2008
First, the background: I accidentally discovered Sigur Ros last summer. After viewing Cameron Crowe's "Vanilla Sky" I could not get the final song in the film out of my head--the piece was such a drastic revolution from all other music I've heard, and after some searching I learned the piece was a live recording of "Njósnavélin." "Ágætis byrjun," "( )", and "Takk" immediately become the soundtrack to my life, and have very much remained so over the past year. Very rarely have I ever been so immensely satisfied with music as I have been by Sigur Ros.
I discovered "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust" two weeks before its release date by happenstance when the album was streaming on the band's website, and have listened to little else since (except for a few spins of Coldplay's latest, which is very disappointing). After the first listen, my initial thought was, "What the hell have you done to them, Flood? They've gone radio!" After another 8-9 thorough listenings, though, I assure you they have not. Ironically, "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust" has become the most listenable Sigur Ros album yet, and I only determined that after 4-5 spins.
From online readings, their fan base has appeared very concerned they would become a "one-sound" band. Fortunately, that is no longer an issue, as the ethereal quality that has defined them has been meticulously maintained in this acoustic, bare sound of the lads sitting down in a room and maintaining what seems a spontaneous sound during recording. The first two tracks on the album contain more joy than perhaps anything they have yet recorded--and I believe that is the message they want to convey to everyone. My only complaint here is the fourth track, "Við spilum endalaust." You can have that song be covered by Coldplay or Keane, and in essence the track would be the same--just a pop ditty. But I can't get upset with Sigur Ros for experimenting with that approach--honestly, I consider 40% of their music from prior albums un-listenable and monotonous as it is. However, what makes that 40% appreciable is their sincere approach to be reaching for a sound and universal feeling for which other bands won't even dare search. To have Sigur Ros' subconscious create the angelic, special atmosphere which they so successfully discover on their own half of the time, I'll gladly let them share the mundane when necessary if that means they'll give us a glimpse into heaven the other 60% of the time.
However, they quickly make up for that by not letting down again. "Gódan daginn" could easily fit in as a ballad on any of their prior albums, and "Festival" encapsulates the entire mood of joy and mystery which this album stands for. Pesonally, I can do without the closer, "All Alright." I certainly didn't fall in love with Sigur Ros because of their English skills.
So in essence, don't judge the album by its first listen or all the annoying talk of kitsch and pop. In the same way U2's `The Joshua Tree' and `Achtung' are drastically different while still maintaining the essential U2 mood, this album is by all measures Sigur Ros we appreciate and need as the standard by which we can easily judge all other music. The album cover really presents what "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust" album is about--stripping down to (literally) the bare essentials, and as a result feeling the joy and freedom we otherwise would have entirely lost.
on June 25, 2008
I normally do not take the time to write reviews on amazon but this cd blew my mind. It's absolutely flawless from beginning to end, and as a previous poster implied, I might just listen to this album before going to bed every night for the rest of my life. I've been listening to Sigur Ros for about 10 years, but this album is a huge step forward in my opinion. Every song is cloaked in the ambience that drew people to this band in the first place.
Buy this album now!!
With their fifth album, Icelandic quartet Sigur Rós may have earned the dubious honour of "most un-pronouncable title" or "worst album cover" ever, but it's also their most accessible album, a strong contender for "best album of the year" honours.
If you've never listened to them, it is difficult to describe their sound. Their lead singer sings in an ethereal falsetto, usually in their made up language Hopelandic, against a dreamy melodic folk/quasi-symphonic backdrop.
Opening cut "Gobbledigook" is a clap filled Folky affair. "Við spilum endalaust" took me by surprise, an upbeat Pop song that one could easily imagine on a Coldplay album.
Spare and cathedral sounding is "Festival" which builds to a towering climax. "Suð í eyrum" is a delicate piano ballad with tumbling sounding percussion building in as the song progresses. "Ára bátur" is an angelic sounding spare ballad one could imagine on some soundtrack to some epic. It features the 20 member London Oratory Boys Choir and the 67 piece London Sinfonietta.
"Íllgresi" is a lovely acoustic ballad, and the absolutely stunning "Fljótavík" is a piano ballad that finds lead singer Jónsi Birgisson's falsetto soaring vocally to Heaven.
The brief "Straumnes" is an ominous sounding instrumental, and closing is "All alright", their first foray lyrically in the English language. A tender lullaby-like piano ballad with Birgisson singing in a frail lower register in the first half. He might as well be singing in their signature Hopelandic from his warbling. Still, a stirring and beautiful song.
So many adjectives could be used to describe this album; ethereal, melodic, magical, hypnotic, hymnal, and they would still not be enough to describe the beauty of this stunning album.
on September 30, 2008
Starting off briskly, the majestic quartet's up-tempo pop dabblings seem to have not hindered the new album at all, which includes something for everyone. Though they revisit their trademark sonic buildups and offer humble acoustic contrast, a certain balance just does not seem to have been struck in the track sequencing, tapering off in the final stretch, and often sounding like a collection of quite good b-sides instead of their latest release.
on June 26, 2008
It would be truly unfair to compare "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust" to Sigur Ros's previous three records. First, this offers a new direction in sound and has little to do with their ethereal if entrancing previous LP's. Second, it incorporates a more joyous view on every track. And thirdly, how can one compare four albums that flow like a continuous stream, with music so dispair and no lyrics whatsoever?
The departure from the beautiful yet claustrophobic sound of their first two albums can already be heard on some tracks form Takk, but it isn't until the first track and lead single of Med Sud... that we see that they can as well succeed as a "pop" band.
As absurd as it appears, this is just one of those albums that needs to be listened to from beginning to end to be appreciated in all its beauty and complexity. Do not be fooled by the simplicity of opening track: there are some gems mixed in with the radio friendgly stuff(to name one, 'Festival", one of the best songs they've ever composed) that make this record strong from every corner it's seen.
That said, Med Sud is a grower. Its appeal will not show immediately like it did with Takk or even Untitled, but it grows in magnificence slowly with every listen.
The live rendition of the new songs is outstanding as well. If you are lucky to have them play near your hometown go see them by all means. One can only witness the complete Sigur Ros experience (music and feelings) by seeing them play live.
If this review lacks of any concrete mention to specific tracks is because I consider it incomplete to dissect an entire piece by unit. I recommend this record to anyone who liked or even to those whose liking was manning after Takk. It will sound like a nice fresh surprise and get you back on track with their music.
on March 19, 2015
This is the poppiest of Sigur Ros albums, if such a claim can even be made. The emotionality is right at the surface and the rhythms and melodies are uncomplicated. The music is still unmistakably Sigur Ros and it's fabulous stuff. It's the sonic equivalent of beach reading - satisfying and easy to digest. Maybe I'm just a simple man, but it's the album of theirs I listen to most. It took me a few listens to get over the album's buoyant mood but I grew to love this album.