Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #20 Sigur Rós
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#20 Sigur Rós
When talking about Sigur Rós and their music, it seems impossible to refrain from mentioning the band’s home country of Iceland, the orchestral grandeur, and the cinematic quality, but I’m going to give it a shot: Sigur Rós creates breathtaking, orchestral pieces that recall the opulent and vast landscapes of Iceland as seen through a wide-angle movie camera lens. Fuck.
The difficulty in describing Sigur Rós lies in the fact that they are virtually peerless. You’d be a lying bastard if you said you’d heard of a band like them before. Because of this lack of reference points, we end up having to use adjectives like “swirling” and pair them with objects like “glaciers” in a contrived attempt to describe the music - Listening to Sigur Rós is like being inside a swirling glacier...? Lame. The point is, it’s an arduous task articulating what’s so great about the group’s music when one of its defining characteristics is the ability to render you speechless. You just have to listen to it.
It’s ironic that the most human aspect of the music, Jonsi Birgisson’s voice, contributes so much to the otherworldly, ethereal quality that permeates most of Sigur Rós’ songs. His falsetto doesn’t really front the music as much as it becomes inextricably tied to the massive wash of sound that the band produces. His vocals ebb and flow in and out of the swelling strings, bowed guitars, horns, and piano figures before being swallowed by the band’s trademark rapturous crescendos.
Just when we had them pegged as enigmatic figures from Iceland who crafted moody, atmospheric epics, Sigur Rós came out with “Gobbledigook” off of this year’s Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (translated as With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly), a buoyant number that employed manically strummed acoustic guitars, stomping percussion, and clipped chants that threw us for a loop. It, and the album on the whole, sounded like four guys joyously playing music together instead of mysterious elfin creatures who delivered it from on high. Whether carrying us into the heavens on the back of a titanic opus or keeping us tethered to the ground with more organic and intimate fare, Sigur Rós continues to coax the breath from our lungs while keeping our jaws on the floor.
- Kevin Na
Check back tomorrow for the next artist! To see the full list of the Top 100 Artists of the Decade, click here.