Sigur Ros

Behind the Majestic Sound of Sigur Rós and Their Made-Up Language, Vonlenska

Behind the Majestic Sound of Sigur Rós and Their Made-Up Language, Vonlenska

Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós craft one of the most strikingly unique sounds in the world. Its a swelling blend of orchestral grandiosity, tranquil cinematic lulls, and frontman Jónsi’s piercing falsetto. This is all heralded by perhaps their most unique trademark, that many of their vocals are sung in a made-up language created by the band members themselves, deemed “Vonlenska”. In English, this translates to “Hopelandic”. Sigur Rós show that classic authors like J. R. R. Tolkien aren’t the only ones capable of creating fantasy languages with compelling linguistics, and infusing it into their art. While Sigur Rós may not be as linguistically ambitious as Tolkien, who created over 20 languages each with unique vocabulary and grammar, they are one of the only musical equivalents. That one of their albums relies solely on an eleven-syllable lyrical phrase shows that.

The entirety of Sigur Rós’ 2002 release ( ) – which the band calls Svigaplatan, translating to “The Bracket Album” – was sung in the aforementioned Hopelandic, and the language’s audible complexity must have been one reason why all eight of its tracks are untitled. The concept of singing gibberish when writing songs is a common one for musicians, who may wish to assemble a vocal melody before considering the lyrical content. Sigur Rós and Jónsi take it to the next level and infuse it into a variety of their works. This comes off with surprising naturalness and cohesion, largely because Sigur Rós’ compositions already resound with a fantastical and almost otherworldly ambiguity. Singing an album in a made-up language is daunting enough, but to sing only one specific phrase – “You xylo. You xylo no fi lo. You so.” – seems crazy. Nonetheless, it works exceedingly well, as it doesn’t matter what Jónsi says. It’s how he says it that’s most important.

The reason for the repeated phrase on ( ) is partly artistic choice, but also because fans had become accustomed to hearing the album’s songs performed live with the Hopelandic fixings. The band had not thought up lyrical additives yet, so the Hopelandic versions were the first – and final – product. But before you jump into Sigur Rós’ discography expecting every album to feature one phrase, it should be emphasized that many of their songs are in a real language, with actual variation. Their native Icelandic features most prominently. Even so, when translated many of these lyrics include descriptive imagery and adverbs, which the syllable-led Hopelandic aims to replicate with a wordless wonder. It does a majestically beautiful job for the most part, especially as it allows the band’s gorgeous compositions and soundscapes to take over. This is their most frequent route, but it’s not always the case. The band even produced a song in English in 2008, with the final track on Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. Yup, that’s the album title, and you can expect many lengthy Sigur Rós song titles with similarly daunting linguistics. Their music is anything but the intimidating sort, though. It’s easy to get lost in, especially as Hopelandic steadily becomes a device for hypnotically entrancing repetition.

Even as Sigur Rós are labeled pretentious by some critics who see Hopelandic as little more than a distraction, it’s hard to fault such a unique component to a band’s sound, especially one that does very little to overwhelm what the Icelandic post-rockers do best: create swelling spectacles that tread in both anthemic and ballad territory, ethereal and beautiful no matter what the objective. If this was a band creating bland indie-rock then such criticism might be apt, but as it stands Sigur Rós continue to make a sound that is strikingly gorgeous and entirely unique.

Best Use Of Sigur Ros’ Music In Cinema & TV

Best Use Of Sigur Ros’ Music In Cinema & TV

With their avant-garde blend of ambient post-rock and minimalist neo-classicalism, not to mention frontman Jonsi’s tendency to sing in an invented language, Icelandic outfit Sigur Ros seemed destined to spend their days as an obscure cult act, capable of achieving huge acclaim but little in the way of sales, when they arrived on the scene in the late 90s. Step forward a decade, and the band’s experimental sound has become arguably one of the most immediately recognizable sounds in the world, almost solely due to the fact that no film trailer, life-affirming montage or emotional TV finale is considered complete without one of their songs. Here’s a look at five of the best uses of their often bewildering but always beautiful music on both the big and small screen.

“Njosnavelin” – Vanilla Sky
Keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson went onto describe Cameron Crowe’s headscratcher as ‘a crap film’ during a festival set in 2007, but it’s fair to say that the band probably wouldn’t have become such a soundtrack favorite had it not been for the acclaimed director. An ardent fan (Sigur Ros’ music was played constantly during the film’s shoot), Crowe was perhaps the first to realize their cinematic potential and after hearing a track at a Los Angeles gig that didn’t even have a studio version, he gained the band’s permission to use a bootleg recorded at Roskilde the year previous. Played over the climactic final scene where David (Tom Cruise) jumps off a building before waking up, the sweeping orchestral dream-rock of “Njosnavelin,” later renamed as “Untitled #4” for 2002’s (), was an inspired choice.

“Staralfur” – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Bizarrely not actually included on the official soundtrack but undoubtedly a key component of the film’s most pivotal scene, the standout from 1999’s Agaetis Byrjun cemented Sigur Ros’ indie-hipster credentials by appearing in Wes Anderson’s homage to Jacques Cousteau, The Life Aquatic. Played over the moment when oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) finally comes face-to-face with the glowing jaguar shark that previously ate his best friend. He ultimately realizes that it’s too beautiful to exact revenge upon. The equally stunning “Staralfur” proved once again that few can match the band when it comes to stirring the emotions.

“Samskeyti” – Mysterious Skin
Gregg Araki’s devastating tale of two teenagers struggling to cope with being sexually abused by their baseball coach a decade earlier, brushed away any notion that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was just that kid from 3rd Rock From The Sun. The delicately sparse instrumental of “Samskeyti” might not have initially made as much impact as the more expansive numbers on (), but it would have taken a hard heart not to shed a tear when it was paired with the heart-breaking final scene.

“Hoppipolla” – Planet Earth
The track that transformed Sigur Ros from cult concern to mainstream favorites, “Hoppipolla” has become one of the most ubiquitous songs in the media over the last decade, appearing in everything from the trailers for Children Of Men and Slumdog Millionaire to highlight footage for the FIFA World Cup to the ‘reveal’ moment in nearly every TV talent show going. But taken from 2005’s Takk, the band’s signature tune was first and best utilized in David Attenborough’s award-winning 2006 series, Planet Earth. Indeed the marrying of Jonsi’s soaring falsetto, icy piano hooks and crashing percussion with breath-taking footage of the wonders of the world and nature in full flight has arguably never been topped.

“Festival” – 127 Hours
Having already selected the previous entry for their 2008 Oscar winner, Danny Boyle and composer A.R. Rahman looked to Sigur Ros’ fifth studio effort, Meo Suo I Eyrum Vio Spilum Endalaust, and specifically the equally anthemic “Festival” to accompany the dramatic final scene from 2010’s hugely intense 127 Hours. Played as canyoneer Aron Ralston (James Franco) finally walks to freedom, albeit with one less limb, after being trapped in a Utah canyon for over five days, the track’s natural euphoria couldn’t be more appropriate.

Sigur Ros ‘Kveikur’ Album Review

Sigur Ros ‘Kveikur’ Album Review

For all the idiosyncrasies involving their made-up language and oddball instrumental concoctions, Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós are always a surefire bet to produce beautifully sweeping music. Their sound can alternate from quaint piano accompaniments to swelling orchestras in a heartbeat, which leaves room for the sporadic over-indulgences that come with such an ambitious approach. Sigur Rós often achieve innovation nonetheless with moving arrangements and frontman Jónsi’s piercing falsetto. The indulgences of Kveikur, their seventh studio album, are in darker and more assertive tints, all while showing bursts of the effervescent orchestral tendencies that brought Sigur Rós past recognition. It’s an album with light and dark polarities, but one that achieves resounding success in the dueling approaches and their collaborative kinship.

The first sounds on Kveikur immediately show it as an album quite unlike anything Sigur Rós has attempted before. The crackling and ominous apocalyptic thumps of opener “Brennisteinn” is highly uncharacteristic for Sigur Rós, who are never hesitant to kick things off with a sweeping orchestra or tranquil synth pad. Instead, “Brennisteinn” sounds like a beast awoken from its slumber, its teeth grinding in anticipation with distorted churn and metallic guitar blast. The seven-minute journey eventually finds Jónsi in his dizzying falsetto heights after a somewhat restrained vocal intro. Although they project entirely different languages, one can’t help but recall the psych-rock elements of Os Mutantes, and their ability to combine a wildly unleashed rock sound with components of haunting psychedelia. That reference would seem nuts prior to the release of Kveikur, but there are a lot of firsts for Sigur Rós here, even after seven albums and nearly 20 years of writing music together.

Sigur Rós’ lofty sound will never make them a singles group; their successful singles are more or less tidy representations of their respective albums. The second single from Kveikur, “Isjaki” does a stellar job of representing its general direction. Anthemic percussion marches forward to kick off the track, as a sprightly simplistic guitar line bounces around over Jónsi’s emotive voice, which transitions from a slightly nonchalant lull to falsetto-aided dramatics. The coinciding of keys with additional vocal layers that harmonize with the lead helps build toward a beautifully twinkling hook, which represents an ideal meshing of Sigur Rós’ darker and lighter elements. It’s as if the stadium-ready ominous crawl of “Brennisteinn” merged with previous grandiose orchestral efforts like “Hoppípolla”. Although it treads in both dark waters with forceful tides and a serene tropical paradise with trickling falls, “Isjaki” finds the brilliant form of cohesiveness that Sigur Rós have a knack for, an impressive feat for such an anthemic and intricate sound.

As the album follows such a direction, it makes sense that the self-titled track on Kveikur is the most sprawling representation of Sigur Rós’ darker and more distorted inclinations. The gargling bass combined with Jónsi’s raucously dirty vocals actually makes “Kveikur” sound more Queens of the Stone Age than Sigur Rós at first, but a sweeping percussive-led bridge at the two-minute mark brings the group’s trademarks back; Jónsi’s vocals launch into a wordless harmonic croon as jagged guitar lines bring forth the group’s most rocking and edgiest delivery yet. There will always be that interlude with Jónsi’s soaring vocals, but apart from that “Kveikur” is a defiant and forceful twist from the Icelandic post-rockers. It will probably make some listeners scratch their heads, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – especially when a band has released as much “comfort food” material as Sigur Rós in their lengthy career.

Indeed, Kveikur is perhaps Sigur Rós’ most adventurous album yet, and with that comes a head-scratcher r two. “Bláþráður” makes good use of Sigur Rós love for contrasts, and in this case the transition from elegant starkness to chaotic undercurrents, but the arrangements are more scattered and overall less effective than equally experimental efforts like the self-titled track and “Brennisteinn”. Still, the number of missteps on Kveikur is miniscule. Even on a track like “Hrafntinna”, which starts out questionably with the repeating of kitchenware-like clanging, the ascent into the cohesion of soaring beauty and jagged distortion can be breathtaking. Sigur Rós are fully aware of their strengths at this point, and with Kveikur they retain them while marching forward on new ground that is dark and somewhat unsettling, but generally more engaging than several of Sigur Rós’ past releases. Even as Kveikur may sound slightly jarring at first, patient listeners will gradually cozy up to both its bold stylistic delivery and inherent beauty, which becomes more apparent with each listen.

Australia’s Laneway Festival 2013 Hits America with Sigur Ros, The National

Australia’s Laneway Festival 2013 Hits America with Sigur Ros, The National

First originating in Australia, the Laneway Festival has spread to New Zealand and Singapore in addition to a few cities its original country, but this year the festival will come to North America for the first time.

Laneway Festival Detroit will welcome the National and Sigur Ros to headline the inaugural festivities. The one-day event will be held September 14 in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Mich. on the campus of Oakland University. Other notable names on the lineup include Deerhunter, Dismemberment Plan, Phosphorescent, Frightened Rabbit, My Brightest Diamond, Solange and Youth Lagoon.

Laneway was first founded in 2004, and with the announcement of the Detroit incarnation, has now expanded to eight cities. Lucinda Treat, vice president for Business Strategy and Operations for organizer Palace Sports & Entertainment, explained in a statement why a North American version of the festival was attractive.

“We were drawn to Laneway’s pedigree as a ground-breaking festival for indie music and we wanted to bring that here to Detroit, a place with its own incredible pedigree for musical innovation,” she said. “This line-up embodies our ambitions and as we get closer to September, we’re certain we will deliver what Laneway fans have come to expect and more.”

Laneway co-founder Danny Rogers also said he saw a great festival opportunity in a city that is attempting to reinvent itself.

“Detroit is having its rebirth and as Laneway continues to evolve, we can identify with a city that is continuing to evolve as well,” he said. “It seemed like a great fit and this line-up seals it.”

Other incarnations of the festival are held in Singapore, Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. All of those events are held in late January and early February.

In addition to the music, festival goers can expect local markets with locally crafted food and beverages.

Rihanna, Slipknot, Sigur Ros Featured at Denmark’s Eclectic Roskilde Festival

Rihanna, Slipknot, Sigur Ros Featured at Denmark’s Eclectic Roskilde Festival

You can never be sure, but I imagine that Rihanna, Sigur Ros and Slipknot have very little in common. However, this summer they will all come together at Denmark’s famous Roskilde Festival.

This year’s festival will be held June 29-July 7, and as you can guess there will be tons of acts packed into that nine-day period. In fact, there will be almost 200 acts performing this go around.

The rest of the lineup is just as eclectic as the three artists mentioned above. Here’s a sample: Kraftwerk, Queens of the Stone Age, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, Miguel, the National, Animal Collective, Miike Snow, Henry Rollins, Azealia Banks, Killer Mike, Crystal Castles, Lykki Li, Bobby Womack and the Sword.

“As always, we are ambitious on our audience’s behalf and eager to cross their musical boundaries,” said Creative Director Rikke Oxner, according to NME. “At the same time we have a variety of stars to secure the collective, unifying concert experience.”

While the lineup certainly includes some heavy hitters, I’m not sure it quite equals the marquee value of last year’s headliners: the Cure, Bjork, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Jack White. That said, if the lineup looses anything in quality, it more than makes up for it in quantity.

Roskilde Festival has existed since 1971 and “is the largest North European culture and music festival,” according to the festival’s website. The organizer of the event is the nonprofit Roskilde Festival Charity Society, which supports “initiatives benefiting children and young people and to support humanitarian and cultural work. The society’s work is independent of party politics and has no geographical borders.”

Tickets for the festival are sold as full-festival passes, and concertgoers also can purchase one-day tickets. Those that want to further support the nonprofit behind the festival can opt for the “Make an Even Bigger Difference” ticket, which will further support the organization’s causes.

Sasquatch Festival 2013 Features Mumford & Sons, Sigur Ros

Sasquatch Festival 2013 Features Mumford & Sons, Sigur Ros

Mumford & Sons and Sigur Ros are just two of the big-name artists that will perform at Washington state’s Sasquatch! Festival this year.

As always, the festival will be held at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington, and this year’s event will take place May 24-27.

Mumford & Sons first played the event in 2010, and at the time played a set earlier in the day, performing before headliners My Morning Jacket. Since that time Mr. Mumford and those other guys that are not his sons have become one of the best-selling groups in the world in terms of album-sales, and the sophomore effort Babel sold more than 600,000 copies the week it was released in September of last year.

Other notable acts at this year’s festival include Vampire Weekend, The xx, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Lumineers, Arctic Monkeys, Primus, Grimes, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, Cake, Andrew Bird, Built to Spill, the Tallest Man on Earth, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Father John Misty and Postal Service.

Postal Service will play the festival as part of their reunion tour that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the release of their first and only album, Give Up. The band just announced a full tour yesterday, February 4, to support an upcoming deluxe reissue of the album. Postal Service played the festival one other time back in 2004.

As in year’s past, the festival also will feature a comedy lineup. Comedians performing this year include Nick Offerman, Mike Birbiglia, Jenny Slate and Brett Gelman.

Unlike many festivals, a four-day pass also includes general camping and day parking, and the official website of the event points out that, “No fees will be added on top except for shipping costs which will be charged per order.”

VIP Supertickets also are available at $1,000 per ticket, and include improved viewing of the main stage, a better hospitality area location and more.

Sigur Ros Rolls Out 2013 North American Tour Dates

Sigur Ros Rolls Out 2013 North American Tour Dates

Icelandic favorites Sigur Ros will tour North America next spring, and also will release a new EP. In fact, a digital copy of the three-song EP is free for everyone that buys a ticket to the tour.

The group’s official website says that fans can expect something all new on this outing.

“Sigur Rós follow up their run of summer festivals by announcing their biggest North American tour to date. The trek, which includes a headlining show at New York City’s prestigious Madison Square Garden, will be the most expansive Sigur Rós live experience yet, with the band taking the stage alongside all the additional players and expanded brass and string sections of the summer shows,” said the website.

“This time, however, they will be incorporated into a completely new show, which also comes with the potent promise of brand new material, post-dating even this year’s ambient-leaning Valtari album” the site continued. “We are pleased to announce that tickets to our upcoming North American 2013 spring tour will get you more than just entry to the show! Every ticket purchased will include a digital copy of a three-track EP, containing new and unreleased music, made available to ticket holders on March 22nd, 2013”

The aforementioned Madison Square Garden show will take place March 25, 2013 and will be the second show on the tour. The first will be held at the Patriot Center in Washington, D.C. the previous night.

After those concerts, the group will stay on the road through April 17, when they perform at the Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco. Other cities on the itinerary include Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix.

Sigur Ros is currently on tour in Australia, and will also visit Asia before the end of the year. Before coming to North America next year, they will undertake a European tour in February and March.

Sigur Ros Map Brief Six Date US Tour

Sigur Ros Map Brief Six Date US Tour

It was not long ago that Sigur Ros announced their first live show in more than four years when the revealed they would play a set at the U.K.’s Bestival Festival in September of the year. Now they’ve announced that that performance won’t in fact be their first show this year, but that North American fans will be the first to enjoy the live sounds of the Icelandic band.

The hand full of dates will kick off July 30 in Philadelphia, and will run through August 12 when the band plays the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. In between, the band will also hit Brooklyn, Toronto, Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Ore. The Chicago date will be a performance at the Lollapalooza festival.

After these dates, the band will head to Toyko for an appearance at the Summer Sonic Festival before heading back to Europe for a few more shows before the Bestival Festival is held on the Isle of Wight.

Sigur Ros will be touring in support of their upcoming album, Valtari. The album, which means Steamroller in Icelandic, will be the band’s sixth studio album and will be released on May 28. It will be the group’s first release since 2008.

Most of the band’s U.S. dates will be held in outdoor venues, and one of the most interesting is the performance at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. One of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles, many stars of the entertainment industry are buried on the grounds.

In the late 1990s, the cemetery, then known as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, was on the verge of bankruptcy, and devised new ways to bring money to the cemetery, which in recent years has included concerts. Other artists that have played the grounds include Flaming Lips, Belle and Sebastian and Bon Iver.


Sigur Ros, Black Keys, MGMT Line Up to Play Osheaga Music Festival

Sigur Ros, Black Keys, MGMT Line Up to Play Osheaga Music Festival

Though the organizers of Montreal’s Osheaga festival have been tweeting confirmed acts throughout this month, the official lineup for the event has now been released.

Sigur Ros, MGMT and the Black Keys are among those playing the star studded lineup this year. Officially known as the Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts, this year’s seventh annual event will take place August 3-5 in Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Other notable acts that will take the stage at the event include Snoop Dogg, Feist, Florence and the Machine, the Shins, Garbage, Atlas Sound, A$AP Rocky, the Black Lips and the Walkmen, among many others.

Since the event began, more than 300,000 music fans have attended the festival, and over 500 bands have played. Late last year the festival won “Event of the Year” at the ADISQ Awards. These awards are the Quebec equivalent of the Junos. In a post on the event’s official website, the organizers promise another great festival this year.

“In 2012, OSHEAGA will blow your mind with an outstanding line up, innovation worthy of the most famous music and arts festivals and as usual a unique and memorable experience.

If you are curious about the somewhat strange name of the festival, the word was a name used for the area that is now Montreal when the first European settlers came to the region. The festival’s website explains further:

The name is said to originate from Jacques Cartier when he met the Mohawks near the Lachine rapids in what is no Montreal. But so the Mohawk oral history goes the white man was waving his hands, either offering to shake hands or asking about rapids on the river. The astonished Mohawks looked at each other and said “O she ha ga” which meant people of shaking hands. From the meeting Cartier transcribed the word Osheaga as meaning large rapids while the Mohawks would use the oral phrase to describe where they met the people of the shaking hands.

Sigur Ros’ Jonsi Scores Cameron Crowe’s Latest ‘We Bought the Zoo’

Sigur Ros’ Jonsi Scores Cameron Crowe’s Latest ‘We Bought the Zoo’

News came via Twitter, as so often happens these days. Todd VanDerWerff, The A.V. Club television critic, sent word while at Television Critics Press Tour. Cameron Crowe was there to promote “Pearl Jam Twenty,” his music documentary.

VanDerWerff tweeted Sigur Ros’ Jonsi will score “We Bought A Zoo.” Everyone add him all at once onto your Oscar predictions.

Jonsi, who is the frontman of Sigur Ros (an Icelandic band), is a perfect for for this film. The music of Sigur Ros has appeared in several films, including “Penelope,” “The Girl in the Cafe” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” along with trailers for “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Children of Men.”

This isn’t the first collaboration between Crowe and Jonsi. The soundtrack of “Vanilla Sky” featured the band’s tracks “Agaetis Byrjun,” Svefn-G-Englar” and “Njosnavelin.”

The subject of Crowe’s films have often been about music, including”Pearl Jam Twenty” and “Almost Famous.” He is noted for taking a lot of care when it comes to film soundtracks. “Say Anything’s” defining scene features “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel blasting from the boombox of John Cusack’s. In “Almost Famous” it’s the sing along of “Tiny Dancer” capturing the mood in a way that only words couldn’t. Even the soundtrack for “Elizabethtown” isn’t anything to scoff at.

Matt Damon, who will be starring in the film, last year informed MTV that there were music notes in the script from Neil Young to Eddie Vedder, which led to speculations about them scoring the film. However Crowe just this past week shot those rumors down and said that although those artists were listened to during the filming that didn’t mean they were scoring the film.

The title of the film is self-explanatory. “We Bought a Zoo” follows Mee (played by Matt Damon). He and his family move to the country in order to resurrect a zoo that has been foreclosed after his wife dies. The comedy drama features a star-studded cast, including Elle Fanning, Angus MacFadyen, Thomas Haden Church and Scarlett Johansson. The film is set to be released on December 23, 2011.