Album Review: Sigur Ros – Valtari

By on Monday, 28th May 2012 at 12:00 pm

Imagine this: Sigur Rós get back into the studio for the first time in 4 years after taking a hiatus. They pick up their instruments and start to record the first few notes of their sixth record. Their only real decision to make is which direction to take their eclectic career as a unit. With the likes of ‘Hoppipolla’ gaining them an accelerated curve of fame from their near perfect ‘Takk’ and most recent record ‘Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust’ even breaking into the top 5 of the UK album charts, the knowledge that your work will be heard regardless of its merit is something that could’ve made many acts lazy. Not Sigur Rós.

What they’ve actually done is write their least accessible record yet.  It’s expansive and rich in its tapestry, but there’s much less structure to it. Gone are the jumpy lines found in 2008’s ‘Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust’. They’re replaced by full sounds of choral lines and orchestral fills.

Opener ‘Ég Anda’ (Video of the Moment here)is a prime example of this as its string lines glisten in the background of Jonsi’s trademark gobbledygook lyrics. As a record, its much less approachable than any of their music before. ‘Valtari’ feels much more difficult to listen to than past efforts as there’s nothing really to draw the listener in. The most approachable it gets is listening to ‘Varúð’ in which it’s near impossible not to get snowballed into its incredible build. On its own, it’s probably one of the best tracks the group have ever written. It’s pretty much an artist’s impression of heaven in 6 and a half minutes. Without it, ‘Valtari’ really suffers.

It’s hard to say though whether these changes are a good thing. Whilst there’s so much beauty to be found within ‘Valtari’, you really have to dedicate your ears to it. The whole record demands attention as if in some way a little more regal than anything the band have created before. As a standalone record though, it never really lives up to those demands. In many ways, it’s the England football team of Sigur Ros records. There’s a lot of good tracks to be found, but it never really shines when the time comes. It’s fantastic in so many ways, but there’s no big finish. The comparison may be cheap, but the boot fits I’m afraid.

It’ll probably fit in to add depth to their already perfect live set, but as either tracks adding up to over 50 minutes, it just doesn’t quite match expectations.


Sigur Ros’s ‘Valtari’ is out today.


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