Others: Isis, Tim Hecker, Mogwai
01. It’s abundantly clear that no critic really knows how to write about Sigur Rós. I don’t mean to rag on my colleagues; I’m “stuck in the same boat,” so to speak.
02. Last year, I wrote about Valtari. I was sick and sad and stuck in Chicago. My room was too warm. Writing was, for once, a shoddy reprieve. Frankly, there were too many pieces that I was trying to pick up at once and too few words to contain them. In retrospect, I’m unsurprised that I let so many other voices take the place of my own and that I focused, almost entirely, on those broken songs sung from that broken country.
03. But all of us engage in this kind of narcissistic appropriation. The common and sophisticated listener alike, letting go of pretense, in truly ecstatic moments, come to inhabit the space of a song. Film bolsters this notion that songs are soundtracks, but even before film, as with Proust’s Swann, little phrases ran amok with our love and boredom and grief alike. Songs that were never for us contain the significance of our lives, and when we listen, we hear the most profound echoes of ourselves.
04. In this respect, considering Sigur Rós would be no more unique than considering Ke$ha or Mahler, traffic or birdsong, waves or a voice — or even Rousseau’s conjectured, pre-historic, original melodies. Yet, too often, criticism is tantamount to descriptions of sounds and theories and a shopping list. I think that, for me, because of relationships with their songs that I have privately established, Sigur Rós signals a crisis in criticism more than most artists.
05. For example, Sigur Rós makes relentlessly beautiful music and leaves critics to merely describe sounds that are better heard than read about.
06. For example, Sigur Rós is private, if not downright hermetic: in a nutshell, glossolalia and blank pages.
07. Neither reality opens a pathway to interesting criticism. Only listening and living opens the possibilities of an unwritten autobiography and the significance of a soundtrack. The blanks are yours to fill in, not mine.
08. So in the end, it’s the critic’s unfortunate task to write boring commentaries on what we’re listening to, or, as in this case, boring meta-commentaries. (I’m sorry.)
09. Is it enough, then, to say that you’re better off listening to Keveikur than having someone judge your ability to listen at all? To let it settle? To live with it?
09.5. (If you’d like descriptions, I’ve provided you with four above. Take them for what they’re worth. But I suspect you already know what Sigur Rós sounds like and that Keveikur is a bit darker than their previous efforts.)
10. Now, it’s time to get out of the boat. I think Keveikur will, for awhile, make a lovely soundtrack as I walk along the shore. Bless bless.