When writing a feature that ends with ‘…changed my life’, there has to be many individual cases of poignant moments, especially when it comes to music. For some, it’s when they heard the first chords of Please Please Me by The Beatles in ‘62. For others, it’s the opening riff of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana in ‘91. Throw in the first 5 seconds of Wannabe by The Spice Girls and you have a lot of cultural shifts devoted to a few simple notes of a song.
But this was never the case for me. Sure, I know the lyrics to most of Nirvana’s songs, could never tread the hallowed ground that McCartney/Lennon walked, and the less said about the Spice Girls the better. No for me, it was the first time I was recommended Takk…
Sigur Rós – Takk… (Icelandic for ‘Thanks’) is an album that solidified for me that nu-metal and pop punk were not the greatest genres to ever be produced by man. Post-Rock in nature yet heavily influenced by shoegaze, Takk… is an album that exemplifies the motif that starting softly and sweetly yet ending in a devastating crescendo creates a sound that can only be heard to be believed.
Takk… is mostly instrumental, in the sense that it relies heavily on the music rather than the lyrics. And that’s a good thing. Not only are the band Icelandic, but they have invented their own language, a gibberish language, a series of sounds similar to scat yet enigmatic. They call it ‘Hopelandic’; an amalgamation of Icelandic and nonsense words. Stay with me here. Hopelandic is lauded as being an emotive, musically-based set of non-lexical sounds that are meant purely as an accompaniment, and succeeds on every level. Because of these anonymous musings emanating from the falsetto Jónsi Birgisson, you can’t help but get sucked into the ethereal vortex that the band brings.
What is surprising about this is that even if you have never heard of Sigur Rós, I guarantee that you have heard some songs off this album. Hoppípolla (Hopping into Puddles) has been used in marketing for the BBC’s Planet Earth series, as well as any other reality TV show where there is a tense moment of sadness, only for it to be turned onto its head in elation (I’m looking at you, X Factor…). Same as for Sé lest (I See A Train). If you haven’t heard of these two songs, then I suppose the only way I could feel happiness for you is from your lack of experience with reality television.
Glósóli (Glowing Sole) starts the action with a quiet trickle of sound from distorted guitars and pianos before rising up into a loud and in your face thunderbolt of life that is a perfect set-up for the rest of the album. Other stunners like Sæglópur (Lost at Sea), Mílanó(Milan) and Heysátan (The Haystack) show that Sigur Rós are not a one trick pony. These songs produce moments of quiet contemplation before snapping you back into whatever focus they give you; it doesn’t take long before you realise that you’re not simply listening to Takk…; you’re being controlled by it.
And why has this album changed my life? Simple, really. After listening to Takk… I purchased their previous three albums: ( ), Ágætis byrjun and Von. Thus, my new favourite band was discovered. And long may it continue.