Sigur Ros, ( )

If Godspeed You Black Emperor! looked out the window and said, ‘You know, maybe the world isn’t a vast, apocalyptic shit-hole after all,’ they might sound like Sigur Ros. Sigur Ros is out of Iceland. They toured with Radiohead a couple years ago, released an album called Agaetis Byrjun, and became one of those bands indie music mags require to remain indie.

Sigur Ros has a new album, called (). Yeah, it’s unpronounceable. The liner notes are blank—pages bearing nothing more than ghosted silhouettes. The band’s name is printed on the front in cursive, but there’s no track listing. This is a band that wants its listeners to pay attention to the music. It’s beautiful packaging that does, however, make you wonder if they’re a bunch of poseurs.

They even seem to feel that lyrics are distracting. Solution? Sing in a language no one understands—part Icelandic, part ‘Hopelandish’ (they made it up). But all of this, the packaging and indie cred and made-up languages, is secondary. How’s the music? The kid who sold me ( ) at Sam Goody asked me what they sounded like. I didn’t know what to tell him without coming off like a total boner.

‘Symphonic rock’ jumps to mind, but wow does that sound pussy. ‘Prog rock’ makes me think of Peter Gabriel dressed up like an angry flower in the late ‘70s. ‘New Age’ makes me think of Enya and Pilates classes, though I must admit, listening to Sigur Ros is one of those experiences that makes a guy wonder if he isn’t one step shy of reading Self magazine. (Not me, mind you—really, I’m tough as nails, a regular construction worker in the world of music appreciation.) Yet all of these descriptive terms are somewhat accurate. The music is symphonic and progressive, but it’s founded, indescribably, in rock.

Sigur Ros is often gorgeous. Occasionally, their music loses form and stretches into bland ambience, but most of ( ) is strangely thrilling. Melodies appear and disappear. Repetitions aren’t repetitive. There are vocals that have got to be what dead babies sound like when they’re feeling happy in the afterlife—it’s creepy, but it makes your whole body warm; those babies are feeling all right. ( ) isn’t the best album around, but it’s frequently amazing. Sigur Ros is making sounds you haven’t quite heard before. Except maybe on their last album. Who’s complaining?

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