Over the past dozen years or so Sigur Rós has quietly built an extraordinary discography. Not that most of us have noticed, or cared. Few people can claim they’ve been paying close attention the whole time. And for good reason. Because despite their persistently beautiful records, listening to Sigur Rós can be a daunting task. One that can be rewarding but only to those willing to brave songs that literally drone on for 8 to 10 minutes.
The point is, Sigur Rós is not for the lazy, it can feel like work sometimes because frankly, it is.
Kveikur, Sigur Rós’ newest addition to their epic and challenging catalog, is their most bombastic yet. And yes, it’s a Sigur Rós record so it’s also a chore de force. Which is to say, it is a mighty, stunning, affecting work. But you’ve got to put in the time.
Luckily, we don’t have to work that hard for it. One of the record’s standouts, “Kveikur,” reveals itself to be one badass motherfucker once the drums kick in. You’ll just need to endure a full minute of grime and feedback.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Once you get past the typical layer of sludge, there’s actually a sincere pop sensibility on many of the tracks here, especially “Ísjaki” and “Rafstraumur.” In fact, we haven’t seen Sigur Ros tap into these kind of hooks in quite some time. And this time around they’re thankfully presented in a far less precious form: with an orchestra of feedback and distortion that once you’ve submitted to is actually a joy to behold.
And if that sounds like run-of-the-mill Sigur Rós to you, well, it kind of is. But Kveikur might also be the best example of Sigur Rós effectively blending their drone tendencies with their pop ones (tendencies which we saw in all their eccentric glory on Jonsí’s awesome solo effort a few years back).
But perhaps the best example of how Sigur Rós has grown is in the album opener, “Brennisteinn,” where they come out of the gate, bazookas blazing, like they’ve got something to prove. The bass tone is reminiscent of “Myxomatosis,” except angrier. It’s as if they want to both own their obvious Radiohead influence and make a valiant effort to transcend it at the same time. And for a moment there, it feels like they do. In the end, Kveikur is a believable soundtrack to laying waste on an entire civilization of slackers. And trust me, while it’s lovely to listen to, nobody wants to be on the business end of that. It’s worth the effort, lazy bones!
Purchase Kveikur here