By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Stark-naked, bounding across highways, running for the hills. The revealing cover for Sigur Ros's latest musical excursion, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust ("With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly"), is both a surprising visual and a thesis statement for the musical trajectory of a band who, in this season of fearless pop experimentation, have cut boldly through modern cynicism and their own meandering tendencies to create a panoramic album of more concise musicality.
This is not to say that the band who made bombast a genre have relocated permanently to a nudist colony. Indeed, up-tempo opener "Gobbledigook," with its galloping drums and syncopated guitar, is a song by a Sigur Rós who don't appear on the rest of the album. Yet it's that new sense of urgency that pushes a song like "Inní mér syngur vitleysingur," with glockenspiel, strings, brass, and yes, even handclaps, or the pounding, proud mini-fanfare of "Við spilum endalaust." Even slow-burners like "Góðan daginn" and "Suð í eyrum" radiate a kind of heat rarely felt in Sigur Rós's ice-clad soundscapes.
Much credit must be given to drummer Orri Páll Dýrason and bassist Goggi Holm, who can't seem to pound or pluck their respective instruments with enough deft desperation. Jónsi Birgisson's cracked falsetto has never been clearer in the mix, and his and Kjarri Sveinsson's newfound love for acoustic guitar adds earthy articulation to many songs. Some might cry foul of the band's post-Takk... orchestral fixation, yet it's hard to deny the thrill one gets when the reflective "Ára bátur" explodes into a stunning coda, complete with boy choir and 70-piece London Sinfonietta.
Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
The music of Sigur Ros is made for the rather nebulous purpose of expressing the grandeur of human feeling through voice and instrumentation. This has attracted many, and infuriated and repelled many others. An album with streakers on the cover may do nothing to change the balance, but along with its music, it is at last a definitive statement from a band that has long avoided one. If you let it, this music can transport you to a place where inhibitions wilt away under your bare feet as you run through the fields, singing, playing, and listening on. Endalaust.