Sigur Rós is a band that, though celebrated by critics, have barely made it onto the radar of the trendy rock scene. A band of quiet misfits from Iceland, they broke through to acclaim in the Radiohead-worshipping era of the late 1990s. After that initial burst, however, they have received little attention. The reason for this is obvious: Sigur Rós makes strange, atmospheric, orchestral music that sounds like Kid A without the heavy iBook dependency.
Their new album, Takk…, is no exception. “Se Last” sounds like Coldplay in a dream world, and the magnificent “Hoppipolla” like Radiohead if guitar iconoclast Johnny Greenwood was the front man. This music is not created to be popular; the mere thought of these songs playing on Top 40 radio is laughable. Takk… is like music from a film you really like; it focuses so much on creating atmosphere that you barely notice it’s there.
Takk… is in no way a departure for the band, and it’s easy to forget that though the music is very different from most of what’s out there, we’ve heard it from Sigur Rós before. These new songs flow together perfectly, and as with all Sigur Rós albums, it is difficult to tell where one begins and another ends. Only one song is a real standout, the dynamic “Hoppipolla,” which allows us a brief glimpse of what Sigur Rós might be like as a “rock” band. Not a traditional one, mind you, but the closer they inch towards The Bends-style guitar crunch, the more I seem to like them. Of course, there is the issue of the vocals. Lead singer Jon Birgisson sings small and far away, in mostly Icelandic. Though his voice is obviously beautiful and quite powerful, it becomes one with the layers of sound the band creates.
This is Sigur Rós’ intention: They alienate impatient listeners in favor of a new album format. Takk… is like the score to a movie the listener has the power to create. The music doesn’t draw on anything tangible, but follows its own narrow, twisted path, whether the listener dares to keep up or not. That said, I can’t help but wonder how great they would sound if they just rocked out a little.