List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Title: ( )
Artist: Sigur Rós
There was a while when I was in university where I would listen to a fair bit of Sigur Rós for the purposes of napping. If I am unable to sleep on an airplane, I will still reach for some of their albums with a preference for Agætis byrjun over ( ). Where Agætis byrjun is definitely a perfect listen if you want to drift off to some beautiful post-rock, ( ) doesn’t work as well as given the greater use of percussion and distortion – the percussion really kicking in during the more downbeat second half.
( ) does something that very few albums do though – have the entire thing sung in a fake language. Well, I say language – it’s not like Hopelandic has any meaning, instead this is very much an ethereal version of scat singing whose syllables are used to fit the melody. It makes for a brilliant contrast to have something so otherworldly being sung to something that, at times, gets closer to being a type of rock than being ambient.
One difficulty about talking about this album is… what do you call it. I guess you can refer to it at The Brackets Album in the great tradition of The White Album and most of Weezer’s output. But given the style of music, that name feels just too bog-standard. Then you have the tracks which are officially untitled, although we do have their nicknames.
Do I prefer the more uplifting first half? Yes I do, they feel like a magical human whale song – especially ‘Untitled #3 – Samskeyti’. Do I prefer Agætis byrjun as an album? Also yes, but I do think ( ) is better than their follow-up despite how amazing ‘Hoppípolla’ is. This is one of those bands I just circle back to every few years and I think it means I really should be giving the Jónsi solo works more of a go. Like, if I like Sigur Rós I should enjoy those works… right?
List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 60/250Title: Ágætis Byrjun
Artist: Sigur Rós
It’s been a while since I last listened to Ágætis Byrjun. Back when I was in the first year of university it was the album I used to take naps underneath my desk like a 6’3” ginger tabby. During this I would have a few go-to albums that I considered suitably soothing, two of these were Sigur Rós albums: Takk… and Ágætis Byrjun.
This is not by any means my saying that Ágætis Byrjun is a boring album. Far from it. The thing is that being ambient music it is so easy to get yourself lost in the sonic world of their creation. I tried it at work today (since I appear to be coming down with another cold and trying out Public Enemy for the first time was NOT going to happen) and it managed to calm me down after a slightly scary meeting and carry me through over an hour of work.
It’s hard to describe this album because there are no touchstones that I can attach it to. Maybe to Radiohead and to AIR, but that is about it. I am sure Ágætis Byrjun is not a completely original work, but they have to be in a very small company. When you think about it, it is amazing that a country with not much more than 300,000 people could produce two highly unusual and acclaimed artists.
What is the most remarkable thing about this album? Ágætis Byrjun is the only album in this list of lists that was recorded and released with no English on it whatsoever. Just think on that, no other album listed as one of the Top 250 most acclaimed is composed with all non-English lyrics. Looking at the whole list the next album you get that has all its lyrics in another language is ( ), another album by Sigur Rós which is currently sat at 515.