Sigur Ros - Góðan daginn
Sigur Ros have always ploughed their own furrow, creating soundscapes imbued with the cold and unworldly atmosphere of their native Iceland. With heavy reverb and the unmistakable falsetto of lead singer 'Jonsi' Birgisson the band have always made a virtue of the slow burner, the track which seems to take an age to develop, and have since found their music used in everything from trailers for the BBC's Planet Earth series to Queer as Folk. But that kind of amorphous, post-rock comes with its own problems. How to develop? The invention of a nonsense language, Hopelandic, on 2002's enigmatically titled () led to a repetitive album of, well, nonsense and with the follow up, Takk, things seemed to be stagnating. So the cover of their new album (trans: With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly) bodes well. Clothes discarded, with a definite summery tinge to the picture we have people streaking across a road and something tells me they didn't stop, look and listen.
The fantastically titled Gobbledigook gets us under way with acoustic guitars and hand claps reminiscent of flamenco, spurred along by thumping drums. It's a vigorous start which is continued by the glorious piano led Inní mér syngur vitleysingur (Within me sings a lunatic). This track is the one illustrated best by the album's cover, filled with explosive energy and a sunshine melody, easily the best track on here. A bit of research reveals the lyrics to be 'My best friend, whatever may happen/I swallow a tear and breathe in your hair/Making a ruckus embracing, we cry/When we meet, when we kiss/Lips burning, holding hands/I see you awake, I see you naked/Inside me sings a lunatic.' Or something like that. It's followed by the beautiful Góðan daginn (Good day) which shows Birgisson's voice in all its glory. Við spilum endalaust (We Play Endlessly) actually sounds more like a conventional indie-pop song, think Polyphonic Spree, with more of that positive sounding energy. The mammoth Festival is one of those slow burners, relying on an almost hymnal vocal for its first half before a thumping bass guitar starts the build into a crescendo which finally gets there.
It's at this halfway point that the album seems to lose all of that momentum and energy. The next few tracks are pretty enough but it ceases being the mould breaking album it could have been. Ára bátur enlists the services of a boys choir and 67 piece orchestra but it only succeeds in highlighting the relative weakness of Birgisson's voice. Even the first foray into English lyrics isn't enough to get excited about (I want him to know/What I have done/I want him to know/It’s bad). It's not a bad album but it's hard to imagine it replacing any of their others in your affection. It'll be interesting to see which tracks get picked by the advertisers.