Sigur Rós probably peaked with Takk… Ágætis Byrjun might be their magnum opus, ( ) was pretty amazing, but it was Takk… that saw the Icelandic band at the height of their powers, as they began turning their manic pixie dream music into something that resembled pop. Since then, they’ve maybe gone a little bit too far in that direction, reminding me, dare I say, of Bjork a little bit.
Valtari is out now, Sigur Rós’ sixth LP, and they’ve backpedalled from where they were going with the last album, Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust (still have never tried to say that aloud). The song lengths have gone up again, the title track is over eight minutes long. The music is back to being evocative and beautiful, it’s complex and decidedly less-accessible than the last time around.
But the problem is that it feels a bit like a retread. A hollow attempt to recapture some of their earlier wonder without a beautiful new idea or theme to build it around. The songs don’t build to the astounding crescendos of Takk…, nor are the textures are detailed and otherworldly as Ágætis Byrjun. Valtari is simply a less emotional experience than Sigur Rós’ best albums.
All that said, this is the worst time of the year to put out a Sigur Rós album, when all you want to listen to are fun summer jams, which are basically the antithesis to Sigur Rós. This could very well evolve into one of my favorite albums of the year when the winter gets here. And that’s something I’m definitely aware of, since I had a similar experience with the National not too long ago. I can tell you I already rather like Valtari now, and hope to like it more later.
Favorite Tracks: “Ég Anda,” “Rembihnútur,” “Varðeldur”