Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós has, for their two decade-long career, defied easy description. Resting somewhere in the space between pop, experimental rock, ambient, and sometimes even classical music, the group creates soundscapes which evoke images of other places and of alien worlds. The band released their most recent album, Kveikur, in 2013, the same year that the departure of long-time keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson turned them into a three-piece. Though they currently have no new record to promote, they embarked on a short US tour again this fall, including a stop at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
10. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I can’t honestly say that Sigur Ros breaks any new ground with Kveikur and, if anything, it feels like a throwback to their earlier work more than a continuation of the new direction they embarked on with last year’s Valtari. But for two good albums in a 12 month span, I’m inclined to forgive the lack of originality.
9. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
The themes (hook ups, boozing, love, more boozing, passing out drunk after boozing) haven’t changed for the brothers Hutchison but with each successive album their execution has improved. On Pedestrian Verse, the lads again craft booming power pop anthems and acerbic ballads to make the ladies swoon and the gents nod ruefully. Maybe they will need to change their game to stay relevant going forward but, for now, Pedestrian Verse serves as a fitting companion piece to previous standout The Winter of Mixed Drinks and should stay in their fans’ rotation for years to come.
8. Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
Liz Harris’s latest album as Grouper is an extension of the brooding path she has traced over the past several years that took five years to come to fruition. As usual, she layers her haunting vocals over dark, ambient chords, creating soundscapes steeped in foreboding and creeping dread. It is a chilling and sublime collection of atmospheric music.
Sigur Rós, along with Björk and Of Monsters and Men, are one of Iceland’s most famous musical exports. The ambient, ethereal post-rockers have been active for nearly two decades, and recently, they’ve begun playing larger venues, such as the GMU Patriot Center where they’ll be next Sunday, March 24.
The 2002 album ( ) is perhaps Sigur Rós’ most well-known, largely for all of the mystique surrounding its conception. Upon its release, the album was untitled and none of the tracks were named. Additionally, the lyrics, sung in frontman Jónsi’s beautiful falsetto, were written entirely in a made-up language called Hopelandic. The album came with a booklet filled with blank pages, allowing listeners to interpret the lyrics and ascribe song titles for themselves.
Since that notable release, the band has put out three more albums, including the most recent, Valtari, which came out last year.
While Sigur Rós’ intimate music is best suited for small, cozy spaces, their upcoming show at the Patriot Center will be nothing short of incredible. Reviews of the band’s shows in these larger arenas have been quite positive, oftentimes with the entire audience remaining hushed.
We have a pair of tickets to give away for next weekend’s show and for this contest, we’re doing something fun – Sigur Rós trivia! At 2 p.m. every day for the next week (until Friday, March 22) until Wednesday, March 20, we’ll be releasing a Sigur Rós-related question over on our Twitter page. For each question, the first three people to respond, either on Twitter or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, are entered to win. The more you participate, the better your chances are of winning.
Haven’t brushed up on your Sigur Rós trivia but still want to attend the show? Tickets are still available and can be purchased here!
So, if you want to play, stay tuned to our Twitter page for trivia questions! One lucky winner will be chosen the afternoon of Friday, March 22 Wednesday, March 20. GOOD LUCK!
Words by guest columnist Rahsan
SOUNDS LIKE: Sigur Ros, Mum, orchestral-pop
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: They have the potential to take you on an enigmatic journey into the land of the Arctic, woven with a wide sound palette held by a lonely heart.
The fourth album by the Danish trio Efterklang Piramida did not mark a great shift from their previous work, but managed to capture a more sophisticated ambience with dramatic strings, grievous brass, twinkling percussions and miscellaneous sounds. The trio decamped in the Russian-owned former mining town of Piramida, which was abandoned in 1998 and has since remained a ghost town since. Therefore the tone of the album is lonely and wild like its source of inspiration.
The opener of the album “Hollow Mountain” sets the tone with a chiming percussion motif created by striking a fuel tank. The journey into the dark starts with the heavenly choral voices that accompany the vocalist Clausen who is trying to deal with the drifting apart from his loved one. Lost and weary, he sings “I wonder, I wonder, I wonder / What I am…” under the sheer light of the moon. The breathy strings are the answer to the questions in his mind. He even cries for rescue, singing, “Help, I’m falling down”, only to hear the echoes of his loneliness. However, he is brave enough to keep on walking in this hollow world, saying “It’s destructible, but I know that someday, when I’m gone, I’m going” like a resigned hero who has a restless soul.
Now, it is your turn to get lost in the rainy windswept streets of this former mining town while discovering the nuanced beauty that could be found in every moment of the album, which may just leave you in a serene state of mind.
Check out the new video for "Hollow Mountain", which stars the lonely, cold, and abandoned town of Piramida.
For better or worse, few bands working today have a sound as instantly recognizable as Sigur Ros. From Jonsi’s ethereal voice, to the invented “Hopelandic” lyrics, to the band’s dense sonic landscapes and trademark post-rock song structure, at this point Sigur Ros is as much a brand as a band. Such easy band/brand identification certainly has its benefits1 but it can also restrict creativity, forcing artists to choose between exploration and comfortable profitability. In a very real way, how a successful band responds to this tension tends to define its legacy.