It must be a truly horrible feeling to have the heart and soul you pour endlessly into your music summed up by thousands in one singular, horrendously monotone phrase: 'bath music.' No matter how many hours you bleed emotion into your chosen art form; to many that art will simply be regarded as something to stick in their stereo system when they need some 'chill out' time. However, Sigur Rós have made a very successful career (in monetary terms, if nothing else) off of people like this, which in turn has led to EMI seeing a potential money spinner in the 'ethereal Icelandic post-rock' genre. Hence Sigur Rós' fourth album, Takk, finds itself being released on said major rather than one of the various independents who were behind their previous efforts.
The transition from a quality indie to a major is undeniably important to any band or artist who makes the move. It can make or break you. Some can make the shift and remain unscathed in terms of both quality of output and artistic cache - Sonic Youth - while others never manage to produce albums as good as those of their indie days - Husker Du. Still others crash and burn. You may see the benefits of such a move when it comes to music videos, radio play, fancy studios, increased magazine exposure and all the other things gained when you have a large sum of money behind you in the music industry. Conversely though, artistic freedom is undeniably reined; you can't get away with what you would on some independent labels. The product has to be viable and marketable first, good art second. A Silver Mt Zion's latest album, Horses in the Sky, is probably the finest record released this year, but could you imagine Universal releasing it? Of course not, it wouldn't make enough money. They have the new Keane album to prepare for anyway.
The question of how the label shift has affected Iceland's biggest musical export this side of Bjork has been on the minds of a good number of pre-existing fans since Jonsi and company announced they had inked a deal with EMI. Well the money is there for a start. Expect to see Sigur Rós on an increasing number of magazine covers along with the words 'glacial' 'beautiful', 'majestic' and undoubtedly played over the credits of future trite films to express the 'deep' feelings of loss felt by the lifeless characters. This was all a given though. What wasn't, necessarily, was that Sigur Rós would by and large stick to their pre-existing blue print. Takk sounds exactly like a Sigur Rós record, no one else's. There isn't a three minute, twenty one second icy soft rock song that can be played every hour on the hour on FM radio, book ended by Coldplay and a U2 ballad. This will not sell fifteen million copies to 'soccer moms' in faceless towns in Middle America. Sigur Rós remains very much Sigur Rós.
Takk is stunning in both scope and beauty, like Sigur Rós' one undeniably brilliant album, Agaetis Byrjun, before it. The musical reference points remain the same: Philip Glass, Brian Eno, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Mum, Boards of Canada, etc. The music swoops and dips, from minimalist electronics to thunderous, cascading guitar driven crescendos. "MÃlanÃ³'" methodically builds from a tundra-esque valley to arÃƒÂ³te highs (geographically technical metaphors are the new black), gentle yet very powerful. At over ten minutes in length it sits comfortably in center stage as the albums focal point. As a stand alone track it's brilliant, encompassing exactly what this band is capable of and captures their, by now very distinctive sound, perfectly.
The problem with Takk stems from the same place as its good qualities. Sigur Rós appear to have become so skilled at what they do that they are unwilling to step out of the box, leading to a record which comes off as a little 'samey.' If the band wants to be regarded as innovators again, they need to make some changes. Radiohead, the band whose later work was significantly influenced by Sigur Rós, made what is almost universally regarded as one of the best modern rock records of with 1997's OK Computer, but their follow up was a total departure from it. The thinking behind this is simple: if you've already done something perfectly, why try to repeat it, why not try your hand at something different. Perhaps Sigur Rós should take note.
Ultimately Takk is a triumph. The band has survived the label move perfectly intact. Thousands of new people will fall in love with JÃ³nsi's voice for the first time and spend their first morning after the night before lying in the middle of their bedroom with Sigur Rós washing over them at high volumes. They just seem doomed to forever live in the shadows of former glories, or to put it more simply, they'll never make another record as great as Agaetis Byrjun.
7.0 / 10
5 Battles -- Mirrored (2007) Battles' sound is incredibly difficult to define. While they are firmly rooted in math rock, their incredibly unorthodox and lighthearted style ...
Posted May 16, 2012, 8:08 p.m.
Icelandic band Sigur Rós are streaming their new record Valtari, due for release later this month, with a twist. Each time zone will get to hear the 55 minute ...
Posted April 27, 2012, 2:02 a.m.
Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós have announced via their Twitter the debut of a new track, "varúð". The song will be debuting next Monday on BBC's Radio 6 at ...
Posted Nov. 3, 2011, 3:18 a.m.
Jón Þór Birgisson, lead guitarist and vocalist for Iceland and also known for his solo work as Jónsi, has announced the details for his soundtrack album to the ...
Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:
Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.