Once upon a time, you knew exactly what you were getting with Sigur Ros. That is, otherwordly ambience, heavenly choirs, the tinkling of melting icicles and lyrics delivered in an inscrutable made-up elfin/Nordic tongue.
Their strength was in danger of becoming a weakness: if it was beauty you wanted, the Icelanders could measure it out and sell it by the yard. For better or worse, that's beginning to change. Their fifth album, to the horror of some of their adoring fans, actually contains a few melodies which one might tentatively describe as pop tunes. 'Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust' (approximate translation: 'With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly') boasts a broader quiet/loud dynamic than usual – as opposed to quiet/slightly less quiet. For example, "Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur" erupts volcanically, the way Sigur Ros songs rarely do. "Ara Batur" swells into a John Williams roll-the-credits version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" as it ends, and the drums on "Med Sud I Eyrum" are straight out of a historical drama. Less happily, "Vid Spilum Endalaust" is a bit too Coldplay. (Chris Martin is known to be a fan.) What Sigur Ros have lost in the ringing of fairy bells, they may just gain in the ringing of cash registers.
Pick of the Album: A rumble from Reykjavik: 'Med Sud I Eyrum'