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|Release||12 June 2013|
It’s been a little while since Postrockstar last held a Roundtable review. While our table might be missing a few members, here is what our writers had to think about the Post-Rock legends Sigur Ros’ latest album.
Shooter — My opinion of ‘Kveikur‘ is one that is difficult to articulate. This is nothing new for me, as I have always had a struggled relationship with Sigur Ros albums. I loved ‘( )‘ from the very first note of “Vaka“, however I could never appreciate ‘Takk…’ to any extent beyond passable enjoyment. ‘Valtari‘ I found boring at first, yet after many, many listens it opened itself up to me as one of Sigur Ros’ most entrancing releases. ‘med sud…’ is fun and beautiful, and ‘Agaetis Byrjun‘ is at times transcendent and at others, to me, irritating. I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here by saying that my opinions on this band tend to contradict most others’ and often my own, so take what I say with a pinch of salt. That said, Sigur Ros is still one of my favourite bands, and one that I love to talk about.
‘Kveikur‘ continues ‘Valtari‘s’ trend as being once more the band’s most confident and well-crafted album to date — this is quite comfortably the most that I have ever enjoyed the production on a Sigur Ros album. ‘Valtari‘ was, despite its softness, Sigur Ros‘s most dense album, with its layers upon layers of lifting melodies and textures. ‘Kveikur‘ is just as dense but in a different way; it will rattle your bones with its aggressive, deep and grinding sonic attacks. The opening to “Brennistein” is the perfect example of this, and it stands as one of the highlights of Sigur Ros’s career. It shows a different side to a band once seen by many as nothing more than sweet and gentle sound-makers. Sigur Ros channel Nine Inch Nails‘s industrial vibe on this song, yet it still finds the time to soar beautifully in its extremely singable bridge.
Beyond the aggressive opener that is “Brennistein“, Sigur Ros still manage to explore many other spectra of sound and genres of music on ‘Kveikur‘. “Hrafntinna“, the second track, recalls the band’s most earthy and triumphant moments from the likes of “Takk…”, yet it innovates and molds itself to the tone of the album with its glistening percussion. Then there’s “Isjaki“, which will not only become known as Sigur Ros’s definitive “pop” song but also by many (me) as their best in over a decade.
Unfortunately, for me the album misses almost as much as it hits, and this is almost exclusively due to the vocals. ‘Kveikur‘ is, instrumentally, Sigur Ros’s greatest achievement, and the vocals themselves are just as controlled and transcendent in their performance as they have ever been. But hitting the right pitch with an angelic sound is not all that is needed to make vocals work — they have to suit the music. Many times on ‘Kveikur‘ do Jonsi’s vocals feel disconnected to the music; lacking any memorable melody and failing to meet the rhythm of the instruments. On the title track (a great song, admittedly), Jonsi can be heard cramming extra syllables into a single beat, and on the following “Rafstraumur” his voice lacks any poetic rhythm and the lyrics (although their content unbeknownst to me) sound hamfisted, during the opening verse in particular.
This gripe with ‘Kveikur‘s vocal melodies does not ruin an album that is otherwise impeccable, but it does at times take me out of the experience. Regardless, ‘Kveikur‘ still contains many of Sigur Ros‘s most sublime moments, and it would be foolish to not give a listen to the latest in the discography of one of the most creative and forward-thinking bands of our generation.
Erich — While I’ve always enjoyed Sigur Ros, I’ve never joined the cult of die-hard fans that they’ve rightly gained. I own all their albums and I’ve listened to them steadily over the past ten-ish years but I never got caught up in the hiatus drama, and I wasn’t ever afraid that they were “over.” All that being said, I’m really glad Jonsi and co. returned, and even more glad that after a slight false start with “Valtari” they released “Kveikur.” I feel like the sound has finally evolved in a significant way since the Flood produced “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust” in 2008. The more percussive, digital, and almost out of place rhythmic figures are what really make “Kveikur” stand out for me.
I respect Sigur Ros for always being themselves, despite the successes and trials they’ve dealt with. As a big Cocteau Twins I was never put off by the “Volenska” vocals, since I was used to voice-as-instrument styles. I do find it interesting when Sigur Ros has something to say, even when I can’t understand it.
All in all, this album may alienate some fans…which is probably a good thing for an honest band that happened to get trendy a few years ago. While I won’t be listening to “Kveikur” 24-7, blasting it out of the back of my vehicle (despite the fact that I think Jonsi would be a great name for a rapper) I enjoy them just a bit more then before. If that’s not an endorsement of “Kveikur” I don’t know what is. I say Very Good.
James — I’m going to forgo the long spiel where I don’t say a single bad word about the album and show undying favoritism because Sigur Ros is beyond being just a band to me. Instead, I’m going to opt to run down where I think ‘Kveikur‘ belongs amongst Sigur Ros‘s catalog of work.
1. ( )
4. Ágætis byrjun
6. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Gasp! I showed my true colors and revealed I’m not a big fan of ‘Von‘ . I think Kveikur is amazing for what it is, a stark departure from the norm and a step in a different direction for a band who largely went back to their ‘Ágætis byrjun‘ and ‘( )’ days, satisfying a large chunk of their fan base in doing so. I don’t think the album has the same timelessness qualities as my favorite Sigur albums, but it will certainly stand out just as well if not better. There will be those who swear that this album is Sigur Ros’ attempt to reinvent their sound and set trends, but I don’t think that sort of thing has ever appealed to the band. Shrouded in mystique and mystery for their first few albums, we’ve really had a chance to see the band open up musically and personally the last three years and ‘Kveikur’ is an extension of that. I don’t think that the guys would have been comfortable enough to release an album this daring near the ‘Með suð’ era of their career. I firmly believe that the Heima documentary and Jonsi’s solo success did wonders for the band in terms of the band losing that ‘untouchable’ status and opening up as people and not just virtuoso musicians. For that, I celebrate the release of Kveikur as a fantastic addition to their accomplished discography. Excellent.