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Alternative & Indie - Released December 4, 2020 | KRUNK

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Christmas came early for Sigur Rós fans. After the second solo album by singer/guitarist Jónsi, Shiver, released in October 2020, the Icelanders now deliver a piece that has been almost twenty years in the making, a live performance of Odin's Raven Magic, an oratorio that has attained cult status, first performed in 2002 at London's Barbican Centre by Sigur Rós, MAO pioneer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson aka HÖH, the singer of rimur (traditional Icelandic poems) Steindór Andersen, accompanied by the Schola Cantorum in Reykjavik and the London Sinfonietta. Almost two decades later, Sigur Ros offers a veritable all-star game of Icelandic music, with the version recorded on 28 and 29 September 2004 in Paris at La Grande Halle de la Villette in the company of the Orchestre des Lauréats du Conservatoire national de Paris and the Schola Cantorum in Reykjavik, with arrangements by Kjartan Sveinsson (Sigur Rós's pianist from 1998 to 2013) and Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, from the Reykjavik indie pop group Amiina, as well as the stone marimba built specially for the occasion by Páll Guðmundsson. All this help was certainly needed for this audiovisual show based on a 500-year-old Icelandic poem that tells of the banquet of the gods in Valhalla, held as signs appear announcing the end of the world. An hour of grandiose music on a legendary theme with a new object of worship for Sigur Rós followers. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 12, 1999 | KRUNK

Two years passed since Sigur Rós' debut. By this time, the band recruited in a new keyboardist by the name of Kjartan Sveinsson and it seems to have done nothing but take the band to an even higher state of self-awareness. Even on aesthetic matters, Sigur Rós entitle their sophomore effort not in a manner to play up the irony of high expectations (à la the Stone Roses' Second Coming), but in a modest realization. This second album -- Ágætis Byrjun -- translates roughly to Good Start. So as talented as Von might have been, this time out is probably even more worthy of dramatic debut expectations. Indeed, Ágætis Byrjun pulls no punches from the start. After an introduction just this side of one of the aforementioned Stone Roses' backward beauties, the album pumps in the morning mist with "Sven-G-Englar" -- a song of such accomplished gorgeousness that one wonders why such a tiny country as Iceland can musically outperform entire continents in just a few short minutes. The rest of this full-length follows such similar quality. Extremely deep strings underpin falsetto wails from the mournfully epic ("Viðar Vel Tl Loftárasa") to the unreservedly cinematic ("Avalon"). One will constantly be waiting to hear what fascinating turns such complex musicianship will take at a moment's notice. At its best, the album seems to accomplish everything lagging post-shoegazers like Spiritualized or Chapterhouse once promised. However, at its worst, the album sometimes slides into an almost overkill of sonic structures. Take "Hjartað Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm)," for instance: there are so many layers of heavy strings, dense atmospherics, and fading vocals that it becomes an ineffectual mess of styles over style. As expected, though, the band's keen sense of Sturm und Drang is mostly contained within an elegant scope of melodies for the remainder of this follow-up. Rarely has a sophomore effort sounded this thick and surprising. Which means that "Good Start" might as well become of the most charming understatements to come out of a band in years. © Dean Carlson /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 5, 2019 | KRUNK

Rock? New Age? Post-rock? Trippy? Progressive? Psychedelic on Xanax? Or something even more alien? Sigur Ros’ second album has retained the same extra-terrestrial quality since its release in June 1999. Like with shoegaze, layer after layer of the Reykjavík collective’s light electro creates a unique hypnotizing effect, similar to the echoes featured in Brian Eno’s work. But under the guise of an experiment lab for the mad scientist, Agætis byrjun ("a good beginning" in English) marries real songs with solid harmonic constructions. Whether it’s the impressive falsetto and heady chorus of Svefn-g-englar, the refined violins of Staralfur or the faux-jazz with a touch of trip-hop in Hjartao Hamast, Sigur Ros’ magnum opus is just one gorgeous idea after the next. This 20th anniversary edition celebrates the shock to the senses that this album truly is; in addition to the remastered album, it includes a 1999 live performance at the Islenska Operan as well as a number of demos. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Ambient - Released August 9, 2019 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 28, 2002 | KRUNK

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Von

Electronic - Released June 14, 1997 | KRUNK

The heaps of praise during 2000 surrounding 1999's Ágætis Byrjun brought surprisingly little attention to Sigur Rós' first record, released in 1997. Remaining available only through the band's Icelandic label, it took some effort to obtain, but those who did get a copy probably found it to be just as adventurous as Agætis. Though darker and more fractured than the string-laden nooks of the follow-up, it's just as sprawling and outright bombastic. It's remarkable that such a young band would be this experimental at this stage in their lifespan, but the sheer breadth gets to be an albatross. Poking fun at '70s prog rock is just as easy as shooting at cement gargoyles on a suburban rooftop, especially when you're an indie kid or a fan of post-rock. But Sigur Rós makes Yes look like the Minutemen. Whittled down to 40 minutes, Von would be considerably more effective than it already is. As a mood setter, the 10-minute opening track really takes about three minutes to do what it needs, and a few other spots seem to drag on for the sake of sucking time. That doesn't prevent Von from being impressive, veering from Gavin Bryars-style aquatic minimalism to My Bloody Valentine-style dream pop. Varying states of isolationist ambience run throughout, whether evoking unrest or tranquil rest. You can practically envision a stray headboard floating through the Sinking of the Titanic-type passages, and the lush "Myrkur" comes from a planet where MBV's Kevin Shields and Kitchens of Distinction's Julian Swales are accorded the level or worship that Earth gives to Hendrix and Clapton. And then there's that voice, one of the most distinctly unintelligible voices since the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser. Boy? Girl? One would be hard-pressed to guess without liner notes. Based on pure sound, Von is just as much of a treat as the acclaimed follow-up. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 28, 2002 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 8, 2006 | KRUNK

Sæglópur collects the expansive single of the same name from Sigur Rós' 2005 Takk... and augments it with three unreleased cuts: "Refur," a soft, piano-led instrumental followed by the typically atmospheric and string-laden space rocker "Ó Fridur," and the more ambient-sounding "Kafari." Also included is a bonus DVD disc with videos for the singles "Glósóli," "Hoppípolla," and "Sæglópur." © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 12, 2005 | KRUNK

A strange thing happens before the two-minute mark in "Saeglopur." All the twinkling and cooing erupts, at what might seem like eight minutes earlier than normal, into a cathartic blast of tautly constructed group noise -- or, as those who prefer songs and motion over moods and atmospheres might say, "The good part comes." "Saeglopur" is emblematic of Sigur Rós' fourth album, released nearly three years (!) after ( ). Nothing resembles a drone, and no part of it could be described as funereal. Even so, Takk... is still very much a Sigur Rós album, due in large part to the ever-present otherworldly vocals, but also because the only real changes are the activeness of some arrangements -- arrangements that deploy a familiar combination of bass, drums, piano, vocals, lots of strings, and some horns -- and some of the colors that are used. Despite opening with what sounds like a happy walk through a snow bank, the album is just as suited for a sunlit spring morning as ( ) was suited for a winter trudge across a foggy moor, so in that sense, it isn't a repeat and is more tactile than illusory, but it's not likely to win over anyone who suddenly felt an index finger push against the back of his throat while hearing "Svefn-G-Englar" for the first time. And it's not as if the band is suddenly writing three-minute pop songs, either. Half of the album's tracks are longer than six minutes, with extended cresting, sudden bursts of action, and a couple particularly fragile moments that seem to be on the brink of melting away. One thing to consider when wondering whether or not this band has changed in any way: they've gone from providing the background music to death announcements to "Sé Lest," a fluttering children's lullaby that is briefly crashed by an even more gleeful oom-pah-pah brass band. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 30, 2013 | Vitamin Records

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Ambient - Released June 21, 2016 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 20, 2007 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 5, 2007 | KRUNK

After floating in the same cirrus clouds for a decade, it would seem that the time has come for a change. Not to say that the lulling orchestral swells or Jon Birgisson's schoolboy falsetto have lost any of their magic over time; it's just that after releasing 40-some similar-sounding songs with undecipherable lyrics, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate one from the next. However, Hvarf/Heim isn't the album to mark a musical departure for Sigur Rós. The bandmembers show no real sign of abandoning their style, so it seems understandable that they would want to show fans another side of themselves. Disc one, Hvarf, is a five-track collection of rarities from their vaults. The handful of tracks doesn't quite make for a fulfilling full-length, but with two of the songs almost hitting the ten-minute mark, the disc's entirety feels much longer than a mere EP. Consistently sprawling and lunar, the songs would feel right at home on Takk... or ( ). The standout track, "Hljómalind," is one of the more concise and traditional songs crafted over their journey, with the traditional instrumentation of reversed chimes and bowed guitar delays sawing textures into the fabric of the song, just before giving way to a powerful rock chorus from the mouth of a gently meowing alien. The traditional slow build is ignored for dynamics, and an unusually tangible hook hits like an old-fashioned punch to the face. The second disc, Heim, is comprised of six acoustically performed versions of favorites from their back catalog. Surprisingly, these songs don't sound remarkably different from the originals. Even without an electric guitar droning, they aren't sparse or minimal in the least, due to an additional string quartet, Amiina, filling in the gaps to create a lush soundscape. The reworkings are subtle, but the versions of "Samskeyti" and "Starálfur" remain beautiful and are slightly warmer and even more fragile than the originals. Completists will find this double-disc supplement of material appealing, and new fans wanting to get a quick feel for the band will probably enjoy it too, but the true excitement revolving around this promises to be in the accompanying release of the Heima DVD, a documentary -- with gorgeous cinematography -- that follows Sigur Rós' 2006 tour of their homeland and features music from these discs, which is perfectly fitting for a slow-motion shot of an iceberg melting in a spring sunrise. © Jason Lymangrover /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 27, 1999 | KRUNK

The first U.K. release for Iceland's Sigur Rós is a stunning, self-contained EP of epic aspirations shot through with over a half-hour of funereal, taunting excellence. Two studio cuts from the superb Ágætis Byrjun make up half the release -- the gasping, virtuous sighs of "Svefn-G-Englar," the sub-zero buildup of "Viðar Vel Til Loftárása" -- but the real treats are the other live tracks found at the back of the dramatics. Both "Nýja Lagið" and "Syndir Guðs" show off a desolate, aural stage presence that promises a tremendous amount of live gifts even for a band twice Rós' age. Indeed, this EP could've been a throwaway jaunt into a game of expositional "catch up," yet the mournful impact here remains almost overwhelming. Even those well aware of Sigur Rós will feel this preamble's reverberations long after it has faded away. © Dean Carlson /TiVo
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Ambient - Released April 27, 2018 | KRUNK

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Folk/Americana - Released April 1, 2001 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 1, 1998 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 13, 2019 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 21, 2013 | KRUNK

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 20, 2000 | KRUNK

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Sigur Rós in the magazine