Trackpacking: Sigur Rós

by Keith Savage · 8 comments

Sigur Rós

Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

I was horribly late to the Sigur Rós bandwagon. When their breakthrough album, Ágætis Byrjun, dropped in 1999 I was too busy listening to Radiohead‘s OK Computer over and over and over again on my Diamond Rio MP3 player (at 60MB, it had just enough memory for the album).

Forgive me?

It wasn’t until last year that I really started listening to Sigur Rós in earnest, and I’m happy to say the years of guilt at having ignored them were justified by the first bass line of Olsen Olsen (have a listen to it in Pack These Tracks). Incredible.

So what’s their story? Four guys from preternaturally gorgeous and desolate Iceland banded together beneath the midnight sun to craft some of the most alien and other-worldly sounds this side of Pink Floyd. Jónsi’s falsetto voice hovers over songs and often gibbers in a nonsense language dubbed “Hopelandic.” Don’t sweat it if you can’t understand a thing, neither can Icelanders (or anyone else for that matter).

Perhaps that’s the most striking aspect of their music: intelligible lyrics aren’t necessary to convey the feeling embedded in their songs. While I tend to gravitate toward darker melodies – of which Sigur Rós has its fair share – many of their songs buzz with anthemic vitality; uplifting arrangements soar to cinematic heights and provide a huge scope to their albums; vocals pierce orchestral overtures and bring the whole structure down in a cacophony of drums, cymbals, and strings. It’s a signature sound.

Music like this makes you want to travel to its creators’ homeland in a vain attempt to understand its origins. I can’t think of a better compliment. Given the music’s expansive scope, inherent hopefulness and excitement, and sense of wonder, it’s the perfect accompaniment to travel, and it makes an easy choice for a soundtrack to everything from road trips to train rides to trans-Atlantic flights.

What are you waiting for? Have a listen to the tracks below and hit the road.

Pack These Tracks

Create a Moment with Sigur Rós

  • On a windswept beach, dawn light reaching just over the horizon.
  • In the train terminal having a coffee and letting life swirl around you.
  • Looking at a world below from spartan mountain passes.

What music moves you? Share it in the comments!

Original photos by Frank van Eykelen and the_girl, respectively, via Flickr under Creative Commons

NestorNo Gravatar February 25, 2011 at 9:29 AM

Cool. Don’t forget to check out Jonsi’s solo stuff he recently released, I love the live album. Great stuff.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 25, 2011 at 9:43 AM

Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check out his solo work.

PhilNo Gravatar January 31, 2011 at 7:23 PM

You are always on point with these posts!! Love sigur ros. Would also recommend tracks 3 and 4 from the untitled album and the song before olsen olsen on Ágætis Byrjun – don’t remember the name, but know that it translates to “a perfect day for airstrikes” or something like that.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 25, 2011 at 9:43 AM

Thanks Phil. Guess we have similar taste in music. The song you’re referring to is Viðrar vel til loftárása – it means “good weather” or “nice day” for airstrikes. Sigur Ros has so many good songs that it was really hard to pick just five to pack.

ConnieNo Gravatar January 27, 2011 at 9:50 AM

I LOVE Sigur Ros and have been a fan of theirs for a few years now. It’s so good to hear that you “discovered” and enjoyed their music recently too. In fact, when I was traveling in Iceland back in 2007, I had Sigur Ros playing the whole time while my friends and I were road-tripping Iceland’s Ring Road. The BEST soundtrack imaginable for that gorgeous landscape! I highly recommend it.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 27, 2011 at 11:06 AM

That sounds amazing, actually exactly what I had envisioned as I wrote this piece. Iceland’s natural beauty would be right up my alley.

Brenna [fabuleuxdestin]No Gravatar January 27, 2011 at 2:52 AM

I think that’s so cool you’re getting into the music scene in Scotland. I’ve heard it’s AMAZING, and it’s also such a good look at their culture. I thought of you because my Scottish roomate hosted Burns Night on Tuesday. Did you celebrate? Literary traditions seem like your thing!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 27, 2011 at 9:35 AM

Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music, and many of my favorite musicians hail from that area. I enjoy a dram of Balvenie 15 Year Single Cask single malt whisky on Burns Night and toasted dear Rabbie. What did you roommate do? Did you enjoy some haggis?

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