For many, the sound of this Icelandic post-rock band is beyond understanding. Their tracks can be slow and unchanging and often last seemingly forever. Like the band’s famous fellow countrywoman Bjork, Icelandic music has a stigma that it can be a little weird.
But for Sigur Ros, active since 1994, everything is intentional. A listen through any of their albums is such an intense spellbinding experience, like sitting through an opera by Wagner or Strauss or looking at a surrealist painting.
The first album in four years, “Valtari,” is just as wonderful as previous efforts and at the same time proves quite accessible ― if the listener can remain open-minded and let the music happen. (Incidentally, the cover art, created by the sisters of frontman Jonsi follows the surrealist style, with a ship floating far above a vast sea.)
Their otherworldly music creeps up and almost consumes the listener. It is a near-religious experience and once you reach that point, it is hard to stop listening to it.
The opening track, “Eg anda” is a case in point. Lasting more than six minutes, it builds up the momentum in a pace that resembles regular heartbeats. With that perfect pacing, it keeps the organic sound even as electronic instruments appear.
The drum entrance in “Varud,” coming past the track’s mid-point, totally changes everything but still feels natural and unobtrusive.
There is not one bad track on the album and just as magnificent are the music videos which should be enjoyed on the band’s website.
1. Eg anda
2. Ekki Mukk
8. Fjogur piano
Warner Bros. Records
2.5 stars out of four
Since the acclaimed 2000 debut studio album “Hybrid Theory,” which went on to sell more than 10 million copies in the United States alone, Linkin Park has popularized esoteric genres of nu metal and rap metal among the mainstream audience. And the band still seem hung up on that initial mission 12 years later.
Produced by vocalist Mike Shinoda and legendary hit-maker Rick Rubin, “Living Things” is sleek and even listener-friendly if it were not for the anger-charged lyrics.
Sounding quite often like the works of today’s hottest electronic musician Skrillex, the new album is an evolution of sorts from the band’s previous works but feels incomplete.
The biggest problem is the tracks are far too short. To take any of their fury and disgust towards society, the album should not be so cluttered. Before the listener can fully appreciate the songs, some, especially the snare drum-infused “In My Remains,” “Lies Greed Misery” and Irish-folk sounding “Castle of Glass,” are brilliant ― smack of a different set of scornful musical tirades. “Victimized,” the best track, lasts a little over one-and-a-half minutes. It is hard to let any idea develop in this rushed pacing.
Other offerings reek of in-your-face commercialism. “Burn It Down” borrows so much from crowd-friendly Brit Pop and ends up becoming a pleasant filler, something a Linkin Park album does not deserve.
Fans are convinced of the quality: The record became the fifth consecutive No. 1 album for Linkin Park but hopefully the prolific musicians will come back with something truly original next time.
Half a star out of four
Maybe it is his aw-shucks attitude or sex appeal, but Maroon 5’s frontman Adam Levine nimbly manages to keep himself in the limelight without falling out of radio listeners’ favor, even after a decade since the band’s wildly successful debut album “Songs About Jane.”
Even the band members know it. They have been overexposed, like the title of this studio album, mostly due to Levine’s high-profile TV appearances and most recently the ubiquitous track “Moves Like Jagger,” released last year but still receives airplay around the world.
But much has changed in the last decade. Gone are the honest, down-to-earth lyrics from the first album. What remains is a collection of overproduced songs that sound practically undistinguishable from other pop tracks from the likes of Katy Perry.
That should not be a surprise in today’s pop industry. Veteran hit-makers like Max Martin, Benny Blanco and Shellback are here and everywhere else ― including Perry’s studio ― and while their works sound sexy and smooth, they lack any real power.
The lead single “Payphone,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, is an ear-sore; its only merit is the self-satirical line, “One more f--king love song will make me sick.” “Beautiful Goodbye” sounds like a reprise of “Sweetest Goodbye” from the 2002 debut, except with much less impact.
“One More Night” is the only track worth saving, probably because it comes before all the mess that follows.
With most of the songs sounding like there is no rock band behind them, what are the other members doing exactly? They are sorely missed.