Despite any misgivings one may have about the voice of Sigur Rós lyricist Jon Thor Birgisson, there is no denying that his band crafts consistently strong, melodic tunes that resonate with unbridled energy. Birgisson's vocals frequently sound like the vocal stylings of Thom Yorke, Maximilian Hecker, and Coldplay's Chris Martin synthesized and reduced to their most cloying characteristics. To make things even more difficult, Birgisson has seemingly accepted the torch from Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser, singing many, if not most, of Sigur Rós' songs in a glossolaliac, nonsensical croon, improvising the vocals, perhaps, to complement the band's music. And like Cocteau Twins, Sigur Rós create the kind of records your pseudo-hip girlfriend will borrow immediately prior to breaking up with you. It's beautiful, inarguably listenable, and emotionally overwrought music that could easily serve as the soundtrack to any given day of your life.
The Saeglópur single, the first domestic EP released in conjunction with Sigur Rós' 2005 full-length, Takk..., contains three non-album tracks in addition to "Saeglópur" and is accompanied by a separate DVD containing three videos from that record as well. Omitting only the track "Hafol," and adding the video for "Saeglópur," this EP is nearly identical to the band's Japan-only tour EP released earlier this year and was presumably released to make these tracks more accessible to those too scrupulous to illegally download them. Like Radiohead, Sigur Rós demonstrate with this EP that their B-sides are frequently as strong, if not stronger, than their proper album cuts. Though perhaps not as fully realized as the bulk of Takk, the three included outtakes, "Refur," "Ó Fridur," and "Kafari," are each evocative and sumptuously produced in their own right.
Furthermore, these three outtakes add continuity to the mood established by "Saeglópur," the EP's lead-off track. Like many of the band's previous B-sides, two of these new pieces are instrumentals (only the gravely sentimental "Ó Fridur" contains vocals). "Refur" is a short and beautifully Chopin-esque piano sonata augmented by almost inaudibly subtle incidental noise relegated deep into the background of the track. "Ó Fridur" begins with dense, leaden string swells, which build in intensity before Birgisson's moody falsetto enters the mix. This piece, in particular, is an extraordinarily uplifting counterpart to the EP's title track. The final non-album cut, "Kafari," evokes the essence of childhood with its music box melody and lighthearted charm.
These outtakes do indeed sound like they were recorded concurrently with the tracks on Takk The production, overall mood, and atmospheric scraping effects prominent on these pieces are also redolent of the tracks from the recent LP. On the whole, this EP serves as a concise and somewhat enlightening appendix to Takk, although for the sake of the completists out there, it's baffling that the band included all of the tracks except one from the Japanese tour EP. In any case, these B-sides offer some welcome insight into Sigur Rós' Takk period.
The three videos compiled on the DVD portion of the EP are typically impressive Sigur Rós fare. As anyone familiar with the band's earlier videos can imagine, each involves the band's obsession with youth. "Saeglópur" approximates a child's nightmare rather frighteningly and not inaccurately. "Glósóli" and "Hoppípolla" are strangely beautiful and heartwarming videos that will bring a smile to your face in spite of yourself. Every time this band releases something new, they seem to go further toward transcending the indie hype that has plagued them since 1999's Ágætis Byrjun.
3. Ó Fridur
5. Saeglópur (video)
6. Glósóli (video)
7. Hoppípolla (video)