Death Cab for Cutie isn’t the only band who threw fans off with an unusual single this year. Go ahead and add Sigur Ros to that list. When they released “Gobbledigook,” the single from Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, everyone was quick to point out how much it sounds like Animal Collective. And in a way, it does sound like Animal Collective: a more controlled, restrained Animal Collective. It’s upbeat and perky, two words which could almost never be used to describe anything the band did in the past. So was this it? Had they really changed their sound so drastically? The answer, unsurprisingly, is “sort of.”
The first half of Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust runs contrary to most of Sigur Ros’ back catalog. It’s perky, full and busy where they’re usually slow, sparse and delicate. The cover art from photographer Ryan McGinley fits this part of the album. Naked people running through the country on a sunny day? Sure, “Gobbledigook,” “Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur” and “Vid Spilum Endalaust” could certainly be the soundtrack to such light spirited activities. But make no mistake – Sigur Ros are still the same Sigur Ros that everyone is accustomed to. They return to their light, languid melodies for the rest of the album.
So what gives? Did they want to make the change but not jump all the way in? It’s a tough call. A complete change can alienate listeners more quickly. A half-assed change can be easily dismissed. No change at all can make people just as mad as drastic change. If the first section is any indication, they’ve certainly got the stuff to become a strange, experimental pop group — and they’ve obviously proven themselves in the cannon of post-dream-pop-rock. Perhaps they just weren’t ready to leave the familiar behind, and it’s hard to complain. They’re so good at what they already do. “Festival” and “Ara Batur” rank among some of the most gorgeous, emotionally moving pieces they’ve composed thus far.
Still, it’s fun to hear them really experiment with something new. The lilting lullabyÁ‚ almost sounds like it comes too easy to them now. The drumming is more upfront in this album than it’s been in their other releases, and everything sounds grander, more majestic with the extra instrumentation. “Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur” opens with some sort of television or movie theme, and it’s fitting — it sounds like it could be used as a theme song.
It’s arguable whether or not they handled their evolution well, but that doesn’t change the fact that Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust is an acceptable effort from a group that’s rarely out of good form. Now if only someone could get them cut loose in their music like they did for the cover art.