December 14, 2011

This is Art: Misunderstanding Icelandic Music

The above music video by Icelandic band Sigur Ros is both visually and musically stunning, and while I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what's going on in terms of the music or the visuals (so different, am I right?), I know that the entire spectacle is breathtakingly beautiful and eerie. I like not understanding it. It makes me feel more reverent of its magic.

I cannot thank Paige enough for introducing me to the best of Sigur Ros yesterday. I have hardly stopped playing them since! I tell you, nothing can beat a Sigur Ros playlist when you're studying or pounding out papers during finals week. The music is both energizing and relaxing, and since you can't understand the Icelandic lyrics, you're not tempted to sing along when you should be working . . .

Paige, I will refrain from hipster jokes about how you feel less awesome now that I'm telling other people about a band you like ;-) Teehee!

A Bit About Sigur Ros

The band is classified as post-rock because of their use of traditional rock instruments to create unique "timbre and textures." Their music also possesses classical and minimalist elements, and they are known for using a bowed guitar in many of their recordings. Oh, right, and they're from Iceland.

The name Sigur Ros (there's an accent over the 'o,' but I don't know how to do that in Blogger) is Icelandic for "Victory Rose" and is named after lead singer Jonsi Birgisson's little sister. That powerful falsetto you hear in most of their songs? It's Jonsi--a dude. Wow, just wow.

The emotions wrapped up in Sigur Ros's songs are ethereal and nostalgic. Even if you don't "get" what's going on, you know you're feeling what the band wanted you to feel.

Another thing that amazes me is that, as beautiful as the Icelandic language is, the lyrics are still pure poetry when translated over into English. This is the song you just listened to:

Glowing Sun

Now that you're awake
Everything seems different
I look around
But there's nothing at all

Put on my shoes, I then find that
She is still in her pajamas
Then found in a dream
I'm hung by anticlimax

She is with the sun
And it's out here

But where are you . . .
Go on a journey
And roam the streets
Can't see the way out
And so use the stars
She sits for eternity
And then climbs out

She's the glowing sun
So come out

I awake from a nightmare
My heart is beating
Out of control . . .

I've become so used to this craziness
That it's now compulsory

And here you are...

I'm feeling . . .

And here you are,
Glowing sun . . .

And here you are,
Glowing sun . . .

And here you are,
Glowing sun . . .

And here you are . . .

Doesn't helping with "getting it," does it? Even if I did understand what the lyrics meant, I wouldn't be able to put my finger on what Sigur Ros is doing audibly as they create "timbres and textures" on rock guitars and bowed guitars. How do you play a guitar with a bow? I'm so not a music major.

If I had to classify their sound, I would describe them as a slightly trippy (and highly Icelandic) Mumford and Sons . . . but then I would have to classify Mumford and Sons . . .

I can't do it! These musical revolutionaries--I can't wrap my little brain around their ingenuity.

And I love it.


Thanks for your thoughts!