The Greatest Album I Ever Heard – “Takk…”
Sigur Rós is one of those bands that can’t be classified into one genre. Each album brings something new to the table, with the band evolving on each release. Prior to hearing “Takk…”, I had never listened to Sigur Rós – on many occasions I had heard of them mentioned alongside of other post-rock greats, but I never took the time to check them out (having the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had followed them since their first album). Thus, when it was time to see what Sigur Rós was made of, I started with “Takk…”, and that was when my outlook on music changed completely.
“Takk…” is an album cannot be described as anything but perfect. The care put into each track shines through with each shifting melody and evolving soundscape. Each song has so many layers that on their own are quite simple. However, carefully place these layers together and you end up with a enthralling mesh of sounds and harmonies that is impossible to describe in words…
But I will try.
First, however, I must note for the unfamiliar reader that Sigur Rós is an Icelandic group, whose vocals consist of a combination of Icelandic and a “nonsense” language called Vonlenska (aka “Hopelandic”). “Vonlenska” is made up of sounds that fit melodic and rhythmic patterns to create vocal sounds for a specific song (check out the band’s site for a better description). This was too good to be true with regards to my musical outlook, as for me, vocals are another musical instrument and lyrics take a backseat to the melody (though lyrics are still important, one does not need lyrics to create music with the voice – where lyrics are nothing without a melody for them), an outlook perfect for the Sigur Rós listener.
With that said, let’s break down the album a bit. I will touch on the highlights, but note that the whole album itself is amazing and should be enjoyed seamlessly for the best experience (it is fine to skip tracks to find your favorite song, but at least listen to the album straight through once – one must enjoy this work as a whole to fully appreciate its excellence). The album open with an intro (“Takk…”) which leads into the first substantial track, “Glósóli”. In this plodding track, layers are slowly added to create a richness in sound that is nearly trance-inducing. Not to mention we get a nice taste of the bowed guitar that is a staple for the band.
This moves right into two tracks that act as one – “Hoppípolla” and “Með blóðnasir”. This piece is one I can only describe as beautiful. The delicate piano melody combined with Jónsi’s brilliant vocal melodies produce a natural harmony amongst the slowly building rhythm section full of brass, strings, and choir. As “Hoppípolla” ends and seems to fade, “Með blóðnasir” picks right back up with an altered form of the original “Hoppípolla” melody, and builds into another magnificent sonic aura. I will say that this two-track piece is my personal favorite song, and may give you goosebumps as it does to me with each listen. You can check out a live version of the piece seamlessly performed below:
The next highlight is “Sæglópur”. This epic track begins with a nice piano progression and light mallet parts. Jónsi’s falsetto really shines in this track, and just when everything begins to settle in, the track erupts amidst thundering drums and some distorted ambient guitar, all the while continuing the melody. This a shining example of how a song can be so weighty with layers that most wouldn’t consider to be particularly heavy.
One last song I’d like to credit is “Gong”. This song demonstrates some of the odd timing that the group has used for many parts of the album. We start with a simple volin and guitar part that set a somber tone. Once the drums enter, the same guitar part shifts slightly and the rhythm is completely changed with such little effort and a smooth transition. Once again, Jónsi brings both mid-range and falsetto vocals to create some nice textures as the track twists and turns.
“Takk…” remains a shining example of how wondrous music can be with even the simplest of layers being put together in such a unique way to create something more complex and full of feeling. I highly recommend this album to any music lover – it is worth experiencing at least once, though I’m sure you will come back looking for more. The album itself is just awe-inspiring, and as such, “Takk…” is the greatest album I’ve ever heard.