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Album Review

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.

Customer Reviews

A beautiful phantasm

Sigur Ros's work is a stark confrontation with one's innermost hauntings, desires, and unparalled emotions. This album, especially the acousitic tracks, bring abstract tones and tensions to very tangible realities and wonderfully overwhelms the ear. As a relatively new admirer of Sigur Ros, this album has been a brilliant place for me to begin.

Sigur Ros = greatest modern music

Just amazing. :)

A Great Commemoration To Alternative

This album is a booming success in Sigur Rós' time. From Hafsól, which combines Yes-like builds and riffs, to Í Gær's crescendos and soothing vocals that only Jónsi Birgisson could produce with booming pipe organs resembling Pink Floyd's various work. One of my favorites is Starálfur (Acoustic) as it sets a surreal closure to the whole album set with beautiful falsetto lyrics simply about sitting over the night. Hvarf-Heim is a must have for fans of the likes of Coldplay, Pink Floyd, Yes, Ashtar Command, and even elements of The Beatles. Sigur Rós has brought one of the best albums to their collection to this century. Respect art, give it go, you won't be dissapointed. - David Westover (Music Enthusiast)


Formed: January, 1994 in Iceland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Named in part after a sister of one of the bandmembers, Reykjavik, Iceland's Sigur Rós (Victory Rose) was formed by guitarist and vocalist Jón Þór Birgisson (who later went by the name Jónsi), bassist Georg Holm, and drummer Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson. Formed in early 1994 while the members were teenagers, the trio's first recorded song earned them a deal with Iceland's Bad Taste label. Their sprawling debut LP, Von (Hope), was released in 1997, followed the next year by a collection of remixes from that...
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