Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Record Review: Sigur Ros: Með Suð í Eyrum vVð Spilum Endalaust

The Icelandic post-rockers release their fifth album, whose title translates to "With a Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly."

Rating: 3.5/5

I have a friend, at the moment, who is deeply, hopelessly in love with a girl who doesn't love him back. She is effortlessly beautiful, and knowing full well how my friend feels, has lead him on with endless half friendship, half courtship. People that beautiful, if they choose, can spend their lives being told how beautiful they are, instead of realizing it for themselves.

The music of Sigur Ros was in danger of becoming that girl after Takk, which had over-refined the transcendent, glacial aesthetic to the point of becoming good rather than great. How could we critics and fans, hopelessly in love after Ágætis Byrjun (a hypothetical full batch of pies) see the difference? How could the band possibly make their "difficult record" when the music community accepted their early minimalist 10 minute gibberish epics with joy? How can the band throw off these suitors and realize their beauty for themselves?

If the album cover and music of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust provide any clue, it is to get naked. Sigur Ros have basically said, "Fuck it, you can turn off our amps, and we'll sound great with a few acoustics," and they do. But the acoustic/unplugged approach isn't original, and the nudity analogy isn't either.

Sigur Ros prove that they sound wonderful with simple production and in doing so reveal, with the exception of the first track, "Goobledigook," the limits of "naked" approach. Even though the songs hold up under more simple arrangements, they have not done anything remarkable with those arrangements. At first, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust seems like a confident realization of the band's naked beauty, but the bands methods haven't actually changed. They've pulled plenty of instruments out of the mix, but the idea is still to build tension very, very slowly. "Goobledigook" and the second track actually explore new ideas, like a faster pace and full organic instrumentation hinting at something like Feels, but that's as far the band goes before it slips back into more familiar territory. "Festival" and "Ara batur," the two longest tracks, leave plenty of space before the songs get big, but we always know the kick in is coming.

It's not that any of this is bad, I just hold Sigur Ros to the high standard they've earned for themselves. So while Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust is direct and beautiful, it lacks the element of mystery that would deepen its effect. The direction suggested by "Goobledigook," where acoustic instruments are something to be experimented with, rather than left unadorned, is just more interesting than what unfolds.
-Matt Gasda


Andrew said...

Now we obviously want to know who the friend is

matt said...

some dude in florence

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Anonymous said...