Sigur Ros – Valtari – 99%

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Here we go with what is without question my most anticipated album of the year. Sigur Ros is truly a wonder of the world. Their music brings so much happiness and joy to the hearts of so many people with unique musical backgrounds. They’re one of those bands that transcend genres and their music is approachable by anyone who sees music as an art form rather than just entertainment.

Valtari starts off with Ég anda, a piercing 6 minute tune. Jonsi’s first vocals reassure us that his voice is as angelic as it’s ever been. Almost immediately I recognize this album will be nothing like their previous two, it’s a return to the Von and () days, the more ambient, less pop orientated Sigur Ros.

Ekki múkk is just brilliant in every possible way. It’s a haunting, mesmerizing number that really drives home the ambient factor of this album. Jonsi’s vocals rise above beautifully elegant piano work. The mixing on this album is incredibly deep, my ears really don’t know what parts to focus in. I have to give a nod to the mastering here too. This bass focus in this song really stands out and I’m glad they didn’t over do it. There’s just enough bass that it draws focus to each piano note, but not enough that it overpowers the rest of what’s going on behind it. The vinyl scratches throughout this song really puts it over the top.

The album transitions nicely into Varúð, a song that has admittedly grown to become one of my favorite songs ever. It opens with this muddy vintage sound and teases a build up using Jonsi’s beautiful voice before edging back down to a more calm level. This whole track is the embodiment of chill. Jonsi’s voice sounds angelic as as the beat builds up behind the vocal track. This song is everything that a great post-rock track should be. I’ve heard the formula a million times before but the way Sigur Ros does it in their own style lets us all know they’re back to reclaim their rightful spot at the top of this genre. The drums building up to the wall of sound, the eardrum shattering layers blending together so perfectly and then suddenly it’s all gone. Brilliance.

Rembihnútur is really where Jonsi’s side project influences really start to shine through. The early minutes of this track could easily be mistaken for a Riceboy Sleeps track. The bow work is just brilliant, the vocals are crisp and synergize well with the track. I really do with this track was longer as it seemingly ends just as it is hitting it’s stride.

Dauðalogn is a return to the slower, more calm Sigur Ros as more Jonsi vocals take center stage as bow work and ambient sounds take a backseat. The high notes (or rather, higher given that this is Jonsi after all) are truly bliss to the ears. The track transitions well into Varðeldur , as some may know as Lúppulagið , a bonus track from the Inni album/DVD. The song has received a fresh new coat of paint however, as some ambiance has been added and mixing is a bit better as well. The piano is mesmerizing in this song, I could listen to this track on loop for hours.

The title track Valtari has more of a sad vibe to it. I absolutely love the inclusion of what I believe is the Kinderklavier in this song. I just loved seeing it on stage back when I got to see Jonsi in 2010 and to see him use what is essentially a toy piano so predominantly in his music is just a reminder that you don’t have to have the best equipment to produce world class music, you just have to know what you’re doing. Sigur Ros have always been non-traditional in every sense so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to hear it here.

Fjögur píano, the final track on the album, has a sad vibe to it as well. Maybe it’s because the album is coming to a a close? The last two tracks on this album really drive home the approach the band took with this record. On the grand scale of Sigur albums, I’m pretty sure this album holds steady between () and Takk as my second favorite Sigur Ros album, although it’s a little early to even be saying that. The guys really got everything right on this album. Fans of the more poppy side of Sigur Ros might be a bit disappointed, but perhaps they should learn to appreciate () and Agaetis Byrjun first before coming back to this album. The four year wait between albums was far too long but this album definitely makes up for the lost time. This album is sure to be among my favorites of all time for decades to come. A must have for EVERYONE who appreciates music. This is the top of the top folks. 5-24-12

Band website: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/