Let me tell you some backstory about my life. In recent times, I’ve been very hung up on an existential and perhaps borderline-nihilistic “so what?” concerning the meaning of life and whether or not our actions as one collective race, no matter how grand or minute, will carry on into eons to come. As rambunctious as life can be, it always boils down to the same concepts of inescapable futility, no matter how many times people will try to instil optimism in you to distract you from that truth. If I wanted a more morbid laugh out of life, I’d get together with an epilepsy support group and host a screening of the Gaspar Noe film Enter the Void, but that’s besides the point.
I’ve been a fan of the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós for a good number of months now, and after listening to their 2012 album Valtari, I can officially say that this is such a beautiful album that it makes me forget that we’re all dying slowly.
When I listen to a song such as “Varúð” or “Dauðalogn” or even the title track (but especially “Varúð”), it fills me with a irrational hope and resolve that neither I nor the human race will probably ever live up to. As the lush soundscapes pass through my ears, it puts light into my vacant soul and reminds me that there’s more to life than dead-end jobs and punch-clock routines. This is an album that lives in the first few groggy seconds that you’re awake after your alarm clock goes off. It makes you feel like you have to listen to it in the fetal position naked in the middle of a dewy forest to really tap into all of its emotion. In general, every song is beautiful. Except “Rembihnútur”. That song is like the “Electioneering” of Valtari; it ruins an otherwise perfect album.
Sigur Rós’ sound exists on a spectrum, much like something else, apparently. Ágætis byrjun fell into the trend of sophomore albums serving as utmost refinements of whatever sound was attempted on the debut album, just like The Bends, for example, and is in general a very gentle and soft-spoken album. ( ) and Takk were more direct and had a bipolar focus between intimate softness and more energetic rock, leading to this evolved sound being stripped down even further on Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust.
However, Valtari functions as the band’s softest output yet and perhaps their best. And judging from what I’m seeing online, this album is criminally underrated. But hey, whatever floats your boat. (audience explodes with laughter)
Consensus: With Valtari, Sigur Rós invites listeners on a staggeringly beautiful journey that strikes a perfect blend between gentle and demanding.
Favorite tracks: “Varúð”, “Dauðalogn”, “Valtari”