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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sigur Rós - Valtari REVIEW

"We are officially 10 likes away from hitting 50! Thanks to Angela Delmedico for getting us to 40.

-Austin Lovelace"
This is an album that's been highly anticipated, not surprising considering they're one of the biggest names in post rock. Seance post-rock has been a genre that has manged to climb and maintain a high popularity rate with the indie crowd, it's not surprising a band as unique as Sigur Rós would rise to the top. Although uniqueness is where a lot of listeners last doubted them. Their 2008 album "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" was easily their most accessible album and even though that turned critics off, it didn't stop fans from enjoying the album. As a fan of the band I loved the last album but I'm also a post-rock fan so it was clear to me that Sigur Rós was embracing the influence of another band. Explosions In the Sky is my favorite post-rock band and apparently Sigur Rós felt similar. So after putting out a live album (based on their last) and taking one extra year to put out a full length where do they land?

This album acts like 2008 never happened and acts like their previous album was a progression that doesn't need to be experimented any further. This album takes me back to what are considered their classic albums, "Takk...", "( )", "Ágætis byrjun". Sigur Rós is back to slow, immaculately produced, beautiful movements. They really try to get everything they can out of each note; they just get every bit of emotion out of each string, key, pluck, slide, and pull. Sigur Rós is once again trying to make you break down into either crying or complete contentment.

Not to say Sigur Rós is trying to satisfy critics or get stuck in a rut to make fans happy. I mean, is going back two albums really that far? Besides this album is a progression on the style that made them so sought after any way. The new Sigur Rós is clearly trying to break into ambiance, the closest genre to their origin. Being one of the slowest bands in their genre this career shift makes complete seance but Sigur Rós faces a conflict going from an album that went as far into post-rock as ""Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" to an album that leaves the genre all together. Fortunately we don't have to experience that because they are ready to hold our hand and convince us that this move will not only work but be for the better.

You are guaranteed, as a fan, to be pleased with how Sigur Rós wants to change. The song writing style on this record is the same writing that people loved on "Takk" but hesitant. When I said "get everything they can out of each note" I meant it. Once a piano key is hit you wont hear the next one until the reverb on the last has faded. You get the same affect with every instrument and effect on this album, guitars all the way to the strings in the back. Fortuity the instrumentation is stacked so there is always plenty of sounds to pull out of what your hearing. What is extremely impressive about how "Valtari" does this, is how unbelievably beautiful each track is. A great example is the first single to drop from this album, "Ekki Múkk", which starts with these immaculate strings and then Jónsi's vocals come in while the song just grows, climaxes in the middle before it fades out in the cloud of honest joy it created. The first track, "Ég anda", starts quiet and builds until the end where it's just a thick loud mesh. Jónsi's vocals remain just as much of an instrument as everything else, when he holds these high notes for amazing periods of time, without even knowing the language he's speaking he is incredible.

The first 4 tracks on this album just pull everything out of me and if I let them, they could hypnotize me into pure joy but at some point I have to dig into this album a little more. After numerous listens the effect, at least as drastically, ends after the first 4 tracks. I wont pretend tracks 5 & 6 are bad but not as incredible as 1-4; which is a bar so high I don't know how they matched it 5 times. The 5th time being track 7, the title track. Staying consistently high volume this track makes so many slight melody changes that it pulls me back into the trance I was in at the beginning. "Fjögur píanó", though beautifully written, feels to much like something off of "Takk..." to flow with the whole album, it feels like it should have ended one track earlier with 5 & 6.

My complaints with this album are minimal but no matter how much I praise Sigur Rós for what they've done here I have to ask the question... Is this album as good as the ones that came before it? Well, it's better than  "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" but I can't say it's better then the works I and many others consider classics, but can we really expect that, really. I'm left with only one peace of advise for this band; fuck what everyone else thinks because when you want to delve into something new it is your responsibility to become the best at it even if you have to change, give your self to the genre you want to make. This is easily on par with "Von", their first album and as far as I'm concerned, that's all I really need.

-Austin Lovelace

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