Sigur Rós

  • Art rock band formed in 1994 from Reykjavik Iceland. The members of the group are Jónsi Birgisson (guitar, vocals, songwriting), Georg Hólm (bass guitar, glockenspiel, keyboards, backing vocals, songwriting) and Orri Dýrason (drums, percussion, songwriting). Kjartan Sveinsson joined in 1998 on keyboards.
  • Without any formal musical training, the 3 founding members formed the band as teenagers. The words “Sigur Rós” translate to “Victory Rose,” though the name of the band actually was derived from Birgisson’s sister, named Sigurrós. who was born a few days before the band was formed. They recorded a song, which got the attention of a local record label, who liked their falsetto voices, thinking that they would appeal to teenage girls.
  • They released their debut album, Von, in 1997. “Von” translates to “Hope” in English. It only sold 313 copies in Iceland in its first year of release, though it continued to sell as later releases from the band became popular, and ultimately it was certified platinum in Iceland (platinum in Iceland = 10,000 units sold). This album contains mostly ambient sounds, and has been labeled experimental rock or noise rock. To pay for the time in the recording studio, the band painted the studio that they recorded in.
  • In 1999, they released their second studio album – Ágætis Byrjun. The name translates to “A Good Beginning.” It still has an ambient feel to it, though it contains much greater orchestration, and it features Birgisson’s unique guitar, incorporating a cello bow to play the instrument. It was released with little notice, but word of mouth increased its exposure, and ultimately it was released in the UK in 2000 and in the U.S. in 2001. Critics praised it – Rolling Stone ranked it at #29 on its list of the Best Albums of the 2000s. The single Svefn-g-englar was used in the soundtrack to the film Vanilla Sky, as well as the TV show CSI. As their reputation grew, they began to tour with other alternative acts, opening for bands such as Radiohead.
  • They released a limited edition EP titled Rímur in 2001, and followed it the next year with () – yes, these are parentheses. None of the 8 songs on the album have titles. The lyrics are sung in a made-up language called Hopelandic – all of the words are gibberish. The album peaked at #51 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200 album chart, and it reached #1 in Iceland, as all of their albums have done, except their first. Again, it was acclaimed by critics for its uniqueness.
  • Two more releases during the 00s continued their success among their ecletic music base. Takk… (translation: “Thanks….”) contains songs that have been used by numerous films and TV shows, including Life of Pi, Planet Earth, and Outlander. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (translation: “With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly”) was their first album with a song with English lyrics. The album reached #15 on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S. The album continued their shift away from the ethereal sound of their early work, with more traditional melody and folk oriented songs.
  • Their albums from the 10s – Valtari (translation: “Roller”) and Kveikur (translation: “Fuse”) continued their evolution of non-commercial art rock.  In September 2007, the band released a DVD called Heima, a documentary on their concert tour the previous year. Want to expand beyond pop music? Try Sigur Rós. Watch them perform the song Heima, from their DVD.

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