I really wanted to write a review of this album right after I heard it for the first time, but for once, I actually showed restraint. I decided to listen to it over and over -- to immerse myself in it (for that is truly the only way to describe what happens to a listener who is in the grips of Sigur Ros) -- before setting pen to paper, so to speak.
The first time I listened to ( ), I would have rated it five stars and shouted out its gorgeous wunderability to any and all who would listen to me. And after listening to it for a couple of days, I like it even more. Ten times more. But perhaps I am building it up just a bit.
This is not, and will not be, everyone's cup of tea. That's why there are different flavors.
Believe me, if you buy this CD based on my gushing review, you can't be mad and say I didn't warn you. This is music of a kind you probably haven't heard much of before. It floats around you, fills in spaces that most music can't touch, and transports you to a different place in time, a time all at once beautiful, aching, emotional, and nostalgic. And all of this without the aid of words. For you see, the lead singer for Sigur Ros sings entirely in "Hopelandish," a self-invented language that mixes pure Icelandic with several other languages (including some English even). This band is beyond pretentious and still I don't hate them.
In fact, the impossibility of "understanding" the lyrics on ( ) in a conventional manner of thought is, in one sense, what elevates Sigur Ros above so many other artists sculpting the same kind of music. Since nothing is understood, it's up to you to decide what is being said or not said, or, if all else fails, to just give yourself completely up to the sheer emotion of the singer's high, pure voice. Vocals here are used as an instrument, like any other in the band, and together the combination is sheer aural pleasure.
But of course, there are people who will absolutely hate this album. There is a distinctively love/hate relationship built into the fibre of the music itself, because there is no way you could "kind of" like or "sort of" not like Sigur Ros, especially with ( ). All eight of the songs are untitled, and flow together into a wonderfully cohesive whole -- and you're either completely with it or completely not. Pick a side. Please try and pick the right one though.
And now is the point where I wonder how I can possibly review a CD that has no real title and no song titles. It could get quite old quite fast for me to start comparing "Untitled #1" with "Untitled #6," even I would start to get confused at some point. But in a sense, that's the precise reason why the album works so well, without the distraction of song titles or "real" lyrics, the album is almost like eight different parts of a single (and very modern, experimental) symphony. This is an album that all but demands you listen to all in one sitting. There are no singles here. The songs are not randomly placed on the disc. They are meant to be heard in sequence, to experience the rolling waves of their progression to a loud and powerful conclusion.
Very few bands can actually change the way you look at music and the way it can affect you emotionally. Sigur Ros is one of those bands. Unfortunately, they proclaim themselves to be one of those bands, have in fact declared that they will (or at least aspire to) change the face of music forever. Which, they probably won't, not in this lifetime anyway -- if for nothing else than the old maxim that states true genius is always years ahead of the crowd. And this, you see, might well be true genius.
Sigur Ros: http://www.sigur-ros.com