SIGUR ROS, "TAKK ..."
In the early '90s, English rock critic Simon Reynolds coined the phrase
"oceanic rock" to describe the school of hypnotic, swelling,
neo-psychedelic, pseudo-New Age guitar music best exemplified by the late,
lamented Cocteau Twins. Sigur Ros was still just a vision in the Icelandic
mist at the time, but no band ever has been more deserving of this nebulous
The group first won a wider audience outside its native Reykjavik with
its second album, 2000's "Agaetis Byrjun," a swirling mix of guitars that
sounded like violins, rhythms that ebbed and flowed like the tides washing
against the glaciers, and the haunting, high-pitched, ambiguously sexual
vocals of bandleader Jonsi Birgisson. Songs barely mattered, since the sound
was everything. Birgisson sang in a made-up tongue of nonsense syllables,
and on the group's third album, 2002's "( )," he didn't even bother to title
any of the tracks.
A dark and airless disc, the disappointing "( )" was recorded under
pressure from the record company, in the midst of touring and amid an
avalanche of hype, and it suggested that Sigur Ros had reached the end of
the road with its unique sonic explorations. But the band sounds newly
inspired on its fourth album, as well as considerably more upbeat. "Takk..."
(which means "Thanks") is a set of 11 songs overflowing with indelible
melodies and boasting actual lyrics. Granted, they're in Icelandic, but the
sunny optimism and poetic vision of beautiful tunes such as "Glosoli"
("Glowing Soles") or "Hoppipolla" (which Birgisson says is about "kids
jumping in puddles and one of them gets a bleeding nose but he's still
having fun") transcend language, geographical or genre barriers, affecting
the listener in the realm of pure emotion.