Perhaps Iceland's Sigur Rós never really needed to change. They were selling tickets, and the atmospheric aural peaks they hovered above were theirs and theirs alone. No one made music so angelic, pensive, gorgeous, tragic, and lush. The strings, the guitars, the grandiosity, and perhaps most of all, the vocals—the language. Or lack thereof.
Vocalist Jónsi Birgisson delivers his delicate falsetto in Icelandic, which for practical purposes is the equivalent of beautiful gibberish. Indeed, this lack of lyrical clarity is one of Sigur Rós' greatest assets. The score, so colorful and emotional in itself, renders lyrical meaning only within the most divine realm of interpretation. Feelings shift, turn, and amaze, always rising to the occasion. Birgisson understands this beauty of malleability too, I suspect, and he adds gibberish of his own (known as "Hopelandic," or "Vonlenska" in Iceland).
Way back in 1999 I fell in love to Ágætis byrjun, Sigur Rós' startling breakthrough. The music, scale, and emotion held therein remain absolutely enveloping. It is a work I will listen to throughout my life, albeit only in the most profound circumstances. In the years following, Sigur Rós floated through similar altitudes, though never topped Ágætis. Still, witnesses likened concerts to ghostly havens, second comings, and close encounters.
So no, Sigur Rós didn't need to change a thing. But Lord did they anyway.
On first listen, the sound came rocketing out of the speakers: WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP!—someone beating the shit out of a floor tom. And fast. Sigur Rós are wailing! Released in June, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust is rife with naked sunshine. And Blessed Oliver, it's something—vastly different, but equally compelling.
As Með suð appeared, so did summer. I was falling in love again, and we shared the album, blasting the effervescent opener "Gobbledigook," dancing across the kitchen, through bright mornings and out through open windows. So pure, clean, and full of life. Somewhere along the way I discovered the album title's translation. It exceeded expectation, and I had to share it with her, it felt so right: "With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly."