Released back in May, Valtari is the sixth studio album by Icelandic band Sigur Rós. A highly anticipated album, Sigur Rós return to music after their hiatus with full force, producing what is arguably one of the best albums of their whole career. The album is a much more sombre affair than the jovialities of their previous album Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, which was a very strong album, that shifted back and forth between upbeat songs and more downbeat songs.
Valtari is comprised of eight songs, all of which are downbeat. There is little joy in the songs that was so easily demonstrated in such songs as Hoppípolla and Festival. The songs seem to recall similar emotions and moods to some songs, like Andvari, and Untitled#3. It is an interesting album, as at times it feels like a very dense album, featuring lots of ambient layers of bass and guitars that create layer upon layer of sound. Then again, at other times, it seems very sparse, with little happening in some of the songs. I believe it is a simple matter that the songs drift in and around being dense and/or sparse, which helps to make it an interesting album, giving each of the songs flair.
There is a lot of emotion in the songs. Jónsi’s vocals fall into the layers of music as though it is its own instrument. The vocals are as good as they have always been on this record, except that perhaps there’s that bit more emotion in these songs. Although it isn’t always possible to know exactly what is being sung about (even if you understand Icelandic, due to the band singing in their made-up language Hopelandic), it doesn’t matter though, because the emotion still comes through in the music. I was told that music is able to transcend national barriers, that it doesn’t matter where music comes from, that it can still be understood, and perhaps more importantly, felt. The music on this album has the power to make you feel, whether it is overwhelming sadness, or even hope. It depends on what reaction the music gauges out of you personally.
I kind of feel that the album is about something that is slightly out of reach. The idea came to me when listening to the music and simply looking at the album cover. The graininess in the photo, and the distant image of a ship out at sea, it invokes an image of just being incredibly far away and out of touch with reality. This is purely just my own idea on the album, but it makes sense to me, considering how when listening to the music, it just draws me into the music, making me feel involved with it, and not involved with reality any more. It is a powerful feeling, and I can’t be sure if it is something that can be so easily understood.
In conclusion, Valtari is one of my favourite albums of this whole year. Although this won’t apply for everyone, I found that my first listening of the album was quite an overwhelming experience. The music draws you in, and feeds you emotion after emotion with every song. It can be quite powerful at times, and it is this that helps make Valtari one of the best albums of the year, and of Sigur Rós’ whole career. It is a sad album, but the emotion there is incredibly powerful.
- ★★★ ★★ 5/5
- Ekki Múkk
- Fjögur píanó