Sigur Ros’ new album, “( ),” is like an aural injection of Xanax; It leaves you disoriented, dazed and euphoric. Continuing in the idiom created with 1997’s “Von” and cemented by 1999″s “Agaetis Byrjun,” the semi-untitled “( )” surpasses both.
It’s stark and lovely as an Arctic sunrise. It might also be a musical explanation for why their native Iceland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. At its best, “( )” is a flawless exploration of the seductive power of loneliness and melancholy. Singer Jon Birgisson’s androgynous voice and artificial language, “Hopelandic,” create this atmosphere of isolation suffused with passion.
The music, alternatively spare and symphonic, is reminiscent of the band Spiritualized in the midst of an opium dream. Sigur Ros have said they describe the beauty of Iceland through their songs – if so, it sounds like Iceland fell straight from heavenly ether into a really bleak depression.
Be prepared for track seven, where the drifting music and anguished singing mesh perfectly. Even better is track eight, which builds to a surprisingly urgent climax that sounds, in the coolest possible way, like a choirboy being hurled into a stack of cymbals.
The only flaw is the pretentiousness, which seems to have risen with the quality of the music. Leaving the disc and all the songs untitled may seem like a great idea to a goateed art student, but serves here only to diminish an otherwise marvelous creation.
[Owen Salisbury speaks his own language, Olandic, but only after a 6-pack or two.]