Thursday, January 03, 2008

Semi-Icelandic Gibberish Is Not My Natural Tongue

Sigur Rós – Hvarf/Heim

The 'damned by mediocrity' tag on this blog has, to my surprise, not seen a lot of use this year, but fortunately (or not) here come Sigur Rós with a textbook example. Hvart and Heim are a pair of b-side discs, the former consisting of the standard unreleased tracks and the latter containing acoustic rerecordings of songs from their proper albums.

The term 'acoustic' being applied to this band's music might seem a bit redundant, seeing as they already sound like the musical equivalent of cuddling a puppy on Christmas morning, but believe it or not these versions do actually sound different, with the drums being pulled way back and the other instruments being replaced by simpler, gentler versions of themselves. The one downside of this approach is that at the points where the original songs erupt into a string laden climax complete with bombastic drums and distorted bowed guitar, the versions on Heim just kind of peter out.

Both discs have their moments, 'Samskeyti' on Heim and 'Hjomalind' on Hvart are both good, and the beginning of Heim's version of 'Agaetis Byrjun' is quite deliciously pretty, but on the whole this is a typical b-sides album; everything found here is but a mediocre version of something else that they've done better in the past. Sigur Rós are a great band but this album doesn't live up to their normally high standard. Damned by mediocrity I say!

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