Hopefully by now, you would have some sort of opinion on post rock Icelandic band Sigur Ros. But with their latest release, the band is throwing fans and new listeners alike a curveball entitled Kveikur.
Before really digging into their discography, I only knew Sigur Ros as that band whose music mainly appears in commercials for nature documentaries or shows about the birth of humanity. What those shows call for are music that is surreal, soft, and almost enchanting; making moments that have been slowed down look absolutely spectacular. With albums like () (yes, that’s the album name) and Takk… in their catalog, it’s not hard to find music that can be applied well to those kind of scenes. Even last years Valtari had some moments, although not branching out enough to be as memorable as their previous works. But then we hit Kveikur, their darkest, most commercially appealing album to date.
Sigur Ros aren’t going from white to black, if you know what I mean. On Kveikur, Sigur Ros delves with music ranging in different shades of grey. The trio are their darkest on the opener “Brennisteinn” (“Brimstone”), an almost eight minute trip with moments resembling an action movie trailer littered throughout. The title track (or “Candlewick) is incredibly fuzzy, but a rather engaging and entertaining listen. On the polar opposite, you have the closer “Var” (“Was”), which is a gorgeous ambient piano track that closes the album out beautifully. It also solidifies my opinion on the piano being the most underutilized instrument in the band’s repertoire.
This might make me a typical Sigur Ros fan, but the best moments on this album are where they straddle both the light and the dark sides to make a rather captivating listen. “Rafstraumur” (“Electric Current”) is a gorgeous piece of post rock, combining the typical Sigur Ros with a newfound sense of form that fills the album. “Stormur” (“Storm”) also joins it as being a great song that actually follows a typical 4/4 format.
My only real gripe with the album, which to some might be the best part of Sigur Ros albums, lead singer voice. If you are intentionally making a darker album, mixed with dark instrumentation, the least you could do is lower your register an octave or two. No, Jónsi keeps with his heavenly falsetto for the majority of the album, with only one or two times he intentionally brings his voice down to a human level. The only time he truly changes his singing style is “Ísjaki” (“Iceberg”), where Jónsi sings in a whisper from time to time, which oddly reminds me of Silversun Pickups’ Brian Aubert a little (that is the only way those two are comparable). He also has some gutteral, pitch shifted sounds in “Yfirborð,” but those aren’t anything really special.
I don’t know if it was the record label change that had them alter their sound for this record, or they intentionally made sure to switch things up on Kveikur. Whatever the case may be, the Iclandic trio managed to make yet another great album to add to their twenty year discography. Some long term fans might hate the change they bring to the album, but if you’re going in with an open mind, there really isn’t much here to complain about. Sure it will stick out in their discography, but being a black sheep doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Final Grade: A-
Go Download: “Rafstraumur”