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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Ágætis Byrjun

Sigur Rós

1999

Ágætis Byrjun

Album Summary

Ágætis byrjun (Icelandic: [ˈaːucaitɪs ˈpɪrjʏn], A good beginning) is the second studio album by Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, released on 12 June 1999. The album was recorded between the summer of 1998 and the spring of 1999 with producer Ken Thomas. Ágætis byrjun represented a substantial departure from the band's previous album Von, with that album's extended ambient soundscapes replaced by Jónsi Birgisson's cello-bowed guitarwork and orchestration, using a double string octet amongst other chamber elements. Ágætis byrjun became Sigur Rós's breakthrough album, both commercially and critically. It received a 2000 release in the United Kingdom and a 2001 release in the United States. According to their label Smekkleysa, the album sold 10,000 copies on its first year of release in Iceland, earning the band platinum status. It won numerous awards, and has appeared on multiple critics' lists of the best albums of the 2000s. Ágætis byrjun is the band's first album to feature keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, and their last to feature drummer Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson, who left the band several months after the album was released. Gunnarsson was replaced by Orri Páll Dýrason in the same year.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.42

Votes

5922

Genres

  • Rock
Reviews
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Mon Jun 21 2021
5

The sound of midnight in the wintertime, being alone without being lonely, a calm darkness with nothing insidious hiding in it. Absolutely marvelous.

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Fri Mar 05 2021
5

oh wooooaaaaaaw this is the kind of thing I was hoping to find on this excursion. An unusual and exotic band, something I have never heard before and instantly have a connection with. I really enjoyed this, and can't understand a word he is singing... but somehow I get it. Isn't music just amazing. gibberish out of 5

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Tue May 04 2021
5

Ágætis Byrjun is a triumph of engineering and arrangement, but most of all, it's a triumph of imagination. For sure, you can trace Sigur Ros' antecedents in My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai, and other similar post-rock bands, as well as ambient and industrial music, but the widescreen cinematic dreamscapes of Sigur Ros are unique to them. How do they pull it off? It sure isn't the melodies and the harmonies, which are standard issue. It's more the ever so patient accrual of layers of bowed guitar, keyboards, strings and horns, all played legato, and how all of it is recorded through echo and reverb and other production tricks. The breakout track is the title cut Svefn-g-englar, which steadily builds to an epic conclusion slowly dying away. At over ten minutes, it's long for a pop tune, but the running time goes by in a flash because the music lulls you into a trance state. Not all the tunes on Ágætis Byrjun are as timeless and wonderful, but there's plenty to enjoy here. Ágætis Byrjun is an amazing breakthrough which has inspired dozens of bands--the reverberations are still being felt today. 4.5/5

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Thu Mar 25 2021
5

-Aged very well -Calm and soothing -Clear production -Easylistening

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Sat May 01 2021
1

Unremarkable orchestral stuff with dreary guitar stuff and whiny vocals. I saw these guys live when I was going through a brief post-rock phase. They put on a big visual spectacle show, but I honestly can't remember what I ever enjoyed about the music. I guess it felt like serious, artistic music to me at the time, and I was a try-hard. But it's really the most insipid elements of ambient, classical and rock brewed together into a weak and unsatisfying infusion. Couple of interesting brass moments, and one or two tracks were the vocals actually sound alright - but these are dribbles of interest in an overlength ocean of tedium.

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Mon Jun 21 2021
5

Ethereal Millenial Soundscape. Very cool all around, a little hard to listen to all the time. Very, Very good though.

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Thu Jun 17 2021
4

Vous qui fréquentez ce site connaissez très bien mes goûts et ma personnalité. Et je pense qu'aucun d'entre vous n'aurait parié sur le fait que je puisse adorer cet album. C'est pourtant ce qui s'est passé. J'ai néanmoins été déçu d'apprendre que les paroles qu'ils baragouinaient n'étaient en rien de l'Islandais mais bien une langue inventée de toute pièce, ce qui ne m'a pas empêché de relever quelques fautes de grammaire.

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Thu Apr 08 2021
5

Highlights: Starálfur, Flugufrelsarinn, Viðrar vel til loftárása I have no idea what they're saying, or what language (It's Icelandic, in case you were wondering) but it doesn't make any difference because Sigur Rós' moody, atmospheric downtempo transcends language, invoking a sense of wonder and serenity. I can't help but to try and connect with the music...My own interpretation is that Starálfur ("Staring Elf") transports the listener to a celebratory fireworks display so lifelike, you can almost smell the sulfur and feel the night breeze on your cheeks. Flugufrelsarinn ("The Fly's Savior") continues later in the same night, deeper in the dark, at the water's edge. My interpretations don't really matter, though... This is right at home with the likes of Halou, Flunk, Zero 7, and Theivery Corporation, and will be including more in my downtempo playlists.

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Wed Jan 20 2021
5

Coincidentally been listening to this (for the first time) recently. Very chilled and cohesive. Definitely added to my favourites.

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Wed May 12 2021
5

https://www.stereogum.com/2047135/sigur-ros-agaetis-byrjun-turns-20/reviews/the-anniversary/

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Mon Nov 01 2021
5

Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós (1999) It’s a rare album that can induce tears on a first listen, but this is it. A first person narrative beginning in the womb, a boy anticipates nativity with an awareness of transience, reticence, impatience, and the explosive violence of birth, followed by experiences of the comforting softness in his early sensations. Then, as a toddler, an awakening in his nursery room is marked by the image of an elf running toward him, strangely without getting closer. And in his reflexive effort to check his surroundings, he notices that something is missing—the walls. And we’re only four minutes into the third track. I strongly recommend listening to this album while following an English translation of the lyrics (unless, of course, you know Icelandic!). The dramatic development of the narrative is set to a composition that makes just enough contact with Western traditional music to keep it accessible, with string octet, bowed guitar, and brass ensemble providing the dominant settings. Not without horror, disappointment, and reverie, Sigur Rós walks us toward a celebratory contentment with what God provides. I won’t spoil any more of the experience of a first listen, other than to say that this slow tempo sonic masterpiece will take considerable time to absorb. En það verður ei gott að fórna sér Dagarnir eru langir (But someone has to sacrifice himself The days are long) 5/5

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Thu Dec 30 2021
5

Familiar with a couple of Sigur Rios songs but first time listening to this album, wow, so atmospheric absolutely a masterpiece. Can see me listening to this a lot this year.

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Mon Jan 03 2022
5

Sigur Ros is Icelandic for Sugar Ray.

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Mon Apr 19 2021
4

Ooh, this was honestly the definition of atmospheric. Made me feel at peace. Singer is brilliant. 4.

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Mon Dec 07 2020
4

Feel like I aged 100 years listening to this. In a good way

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Sun Aug 15 2021
4

Excellent,dreamy, original.

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Tue May 11 2021
2

weird shit

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Sat Apr 17 2021
2

This album starts off like a tornado and smacks you in the chops. It’s loud and brash and in your face. It’s thrashy and punky and a little bit screamy. Normally this combination would induce an excited curiosity from myself and these tracks did just that...but that was all. I just can’t find anything worthwhile or standoutish. The songs speed along happily enough, but leave you feeling unsatisfied and with an empty void. 2 Stars!

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Fri Aug 06 2021
2

Agaetis Byjurn and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are 2 of the most well received records that do absolutely nothing for me. I know the orchestration sounds terrific, and the strings, pianos, flutes create beautiful harmonies, but it's just incredibly boring to me. I will not listen to 9 minutes of pretentious ambient noises to wait for a climax that won't come, in a language that I don't understand again, to see why people love this so much. 2/5.

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Mon Dec 13 2021
2

When this was released I thought it was deep and emotional but upon relistening it appears fucking insufferable. Nice music, but those vocals? Drunken elves.

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Tue Jan 11 2022
2

I thought I would like this more than I did.

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Fri Jan 14 2022
2

This album is just too slow for my liking. Not really a fan.

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Fri Apr 08 2022
2

Mental icelandic orchestral cinematic sounds. The singing is a bit irritating. I liked the batteri and bamm bamm bamm

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Mon May 30 2022
2

A womb with a view. I eat placenta on a daily basis. It goes best with vinegar and brown rice. Yum.

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Sat Aug 20 2022
2

You could probably sleep to this. Very slow, quiet songs. All in Icelandic or whatever.

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Mon Aug 29 2022
2

Listening to this album, waiting for something that never happens. Letdown.

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Sun Oct 30 2022
2

The most demanding album I've come across so far on this generator. 1. It demands to be listened to with headphones. 2. It demands to have your undivided attention, while doing very little to grab it and hold on to it. 3. It demands you stay awake throughout the album, which too is no easy feat. 4. It demands you look up the English translations and make an attempt to decipher it's cryptic lyrics to follow the themes and stories. 5. It demands that you be in a certain type of melancholic, vegetative mood, but again, do not drift off to sleep! I'm sure for the listeners able to meet the above 5 demands, it would be a very rewarding listen. Unfortunately for me, I could only really meet 2/5 on any given day.

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Wed Nov 02 2022
2

A little dull, sometimes repetitive. Cinematic, but what’s the point?

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Sat Mar 20 2021
1

I fell asleep. Tedious stuff that goes nowhere. I get what they're trying to do, it is not for me.

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Mon Jan 18 2021
1

pretty but just overall generic and boring

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Thu May 06 2021
1

I get a slow build but having to wait 20 minutes for anything resembling tempo was just annoying. An exercise in patience and futility.

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Sun Sep 25 2022
1

Long and Boring. That’s all I can say about this album.

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Tue Sep 15 2020
5

relisten. very pretty album! tracks 2-4 are basically perfect (9/10 but its a lame five point scale)

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Sun Sep 20 2020
5

Staralfur and Olsen olsen are personal standouts, but ALL are great.

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Fri May 21 2021
5

One problem that a lot of atmospheric albums have is a lack of discernible melody, which is not a problem here. They've successfully created soaring music that still qualifies as music, which is nice. I feel like I need more than one day to properly digest all of it, which is usually a very good sign. Here's a fun game to play if you only speak English, like I do: Try to figure out (without cheating) which songs are sung in Icelandic and which are sung in their made-up gibberish language. Best track: Olsen Olsen

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Thu Jan 14 2021
5

Ghostly and one of my all time favourites. Great band from the 2000s era.

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Tue Mar 09 2021
5

Yes

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Tue Jul 13 2021
5

did not listen but is sigur ros cowboy

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Thu May 13 2021
5

awesome

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Thu Feb 25 2021
5

Classic. My foray into post rock. I love this album.

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Thu Apr 01 2021
5

i absolutely love the ethereal dreaminess of the whole thing.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
5

Chillax music, great when high!

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Mon Jun 28 2021
5

this is so pretty

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Wed Feb 24 2021
5

Wie in einer behaglichen Kapsel echolotet man umwabert von Oxytocin Schwaden durch die Kathedralen von Drone, atmet tief und weit und tränenverhangen. Auf die Frage, welches Instrument man hiernach lernen möchte gibt es nur eine Antwort: Wal. 5.0

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Fri Feb 26 2021
5

very nice, unusual, but enjoyable

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Thu Jan 21 2021
5

really liked this! Maybe 4.5 stars 1. cool intro music 2. I kept thinking this one was in English but the end that sounded like heartbeats getting faster was super cool 3. more heartbeat sounds and awesome strings, this is my favorite so far 4. I'm liking the wind sounds and how somber this one is. The vocals are really cool, this was my favorite of the album 5. started off so gentle, I liked that better than the heavy drums. Nice horns though 6. funky beat, I like it. the static at the end didn't feel particularly good 7. the beginning felt almost like when the sun comes out after a big storm?? I also liked the dissonant strings at the end 8. nice and chill 9. "Ágætis Byrjun" apparently means "good start" which I just think is sweet 10. the outro to this was super interesting

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Tue Mar 16 2021
5

Absolutely beautiful album from start to finish.

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Mon Apr 19 2021
5

Ben ik bevooroordeeld omdat ik al in IJsland ben geweest en ik mij spontaan de landschappen terug voor de geest haal bij het horen van deze muziek? Misschien...

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Tue Jun 22 2021
5

NIIIIIIIIIIIICE.

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Sun May 30 2021
5

goated, if only their other albums were as consistent as this

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Tue Jun 15 2021
5

Very spacey? cool! genuinely so good. ny batteri was my favorite but the later songs in the album were super good too its all good

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Tue Jun 15 2021
5

beautiful and mesmerizing. sounded like the ocean.

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Mon Jul 05 2021
5

Sigur Ros, always a classic.

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Wed Jul 28 2021
5

Very nice! Haven't listened to this album yet, but quite a big fan. Definitely can tell that Bon Iver has been influenced by this.

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Wed Jul 28 2021
5

I love this album and play it regularly for relaxing, yet touching and inspiring background music.

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Tue Aug 03 2021
5

Love this album to death. 5/5

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Mon Sep 13 2021
5

A classic!

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Tue Sep 14 2021
5

Amaze

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Tue Sep 14 2021
5

Yaaassss. Absolutely yasss!

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Wed Sep 29 2021
5

Ive loved this album since the first time I listen to it. Someone once described it as "the sound of melting gold cascading down an iceberg" or something like that.

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Mon Oct 11 2021
5

How have i not heard this before? A treat start to finish.

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Sun Oct 17 2021
5

This was such a gateway album for me… I still remember the room I was sat in when I first heard it 20 years ago. Just perfection!

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Fri Oct 22 2021
5

You either love this dream pop Icelandic faerie stuff or you hate it. You can guess where I fall. (Re-listening to this album after over a decade brings back so much emotion… I almost cried for my lost youth during starálfur.)

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Sun Nov 07 2021
5

Zo.

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Fri Nov 12 2021
5

Quietly intense and beautiful.

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Fri Nov 12 2021
5

Beautiful. Fantastic.

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Fri Dec 03 2021
5

I remember the first time I heard this. When his voice comes in on the first song I'd not heard anything like it. Excellent

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Thu Dec 16 2021
5

kyllä tää on varmaan kaunein albumi jonka tiedän.

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Fri Dec 31 2021
5

Dreamy, relaxing

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Tue Feb 08 2022
5

Love it obvs

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Mon Feb 14 2022
5

What a piece!

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Thu Feb 17 2022
5

Listening to this makes me realize why I bought the head sets that I did and the speakers that I did. It evokes a sense of curiosity and fills me with cathartic energy... my own personal musings about leaving the work that i am tied to and exploring the world greater.

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Mon Feb 21 2022
5

A great album from a great band, brilliant end of the night listening.

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Mon Mar 07 2022
5

Transcending, otherworldly, it was something i have never heard before, i have loved every single minute of it

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Fri Mar 11 2022
5

Five stars. An all-time classic, and a personal favorite of mine. As is usually the case with those classic albums, I won't write a full-blown review here given that others have already written wonderful stuff about them and there's not much I can add that I feel could be relevant and interesting. Àgaetis Byrjun is just a timeless gem aimed at anyone who's into Sigur Rós or even post rock at large. Go and listen to this record a.s.a.p. Number of albums left to review or just listen to: 955 Number of albums from the list I find relevant enough to be mandatory listens: 21 (including this one) Albums from the list I *might* include in mine later on: 8 Albums from the list I will certainly *not* include in mine (many others are more important to me): 14 Albums I might not be the best person to judge, but that I *might* include in my final list: 3.

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Sat Mar 19 2022
5

The first time I checked this album out was upon watching the Pixies documentary loudQUIETloud, in which the Pixies were followed in Iceland going to meet Sigur Ros in their studio almost in a pilgrimage way. I don't remember seeing the Sigur Ros bandmembers on screen but I remember going WTF after hearing this. I also remember my friend saying exactly the same. I sure wasn't expecting an ambient album, and never played it again. Last year, someone suggested me () and my opinion about the band changed, but it wasn't until I received this vinyl copy that I really came back to Ágætis Byrjun (I just copypasted the title, it seems impossible to retype!). It really is an album that deserves to be listened on vinyl, and I was wrong: it is not an ambient album, there is so much more about it. I don't know if it's Iceland that do this to musicians, but the first impression I got is that it's heavenly, cold and warm at the same time, as if it were reflecting the sun at midnight. It's just majestic.  There is a dream-like quality to this music. No surprise that they cite Spiritualized as one of their influences, but still, sonically, there is almost nothing on this album that could ressemble that band.  I was about to go through every single track and try to describe them only to discover that it would have been a useless exercise: here, the music speaks by itself.  I cite from the record booklet: "... we had our own idea of what a song was about... because of how it made us feel. Like, underwater, or a womb-like floating feeling". And I couldn't agree more.  I still struggle with long albums, but this one went down much better, and that's surely positive. 

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Fri Mar 25 2022
5

Holy shit. 10/10 I know an album is good when my first impressions of it are "Wait.. this could be the best album I've ever heard in my life"

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Wed Mar 30 2022
5

Angelic, etheral, divine! One of my all time favourites.

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Sun Apr 17 2022
5

Jebena najveća petica na cijelome svijetu i svemiru. Spoznala sam značenje života kad sam poslušala ovaj album prije 7 godina. Vidjela sam boje koje nisam znala da postoje. Upoznala sam vraga i rekao mi je da su Sigur ros njegovi anđeli koji su otišli jer su imali ambicije u glazbi. On je bio okej s tim jer su toliko dobri. Kad Jonsi krene sa svojim falsetom dođe mi da se rasplačem ko beba. Ne znam koji kurac se događa tam na Islandu al oni očito znaju neš što mi ne znamo.

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Tue Apr 26 2022
5

Beautiful

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Wed Apr 27 2022
5

I remember my sister being a big Sigur Ros fan when I was a kid/teen but I never really listened to them myself even though I'm a pretty big post-rock fans and these guys are some of the pioneers I'm told. I regret not getting around to it sooner immensely. What a chillingly beautiful album throughout with loads of great, unique ideas. Think this will only grow with multiple listens but I am in awe. Need to check more albums from them ASAP.

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Sun May 01 2022
5

This is what all those lofi ethereal playlists are going for huh? I fucking wish I could understand the vocals, but this sounds so good.

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Tue May 03 2022
5

Una obra de arte

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Mon May 09 2022
5

Very fond of this album.

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Thu May 12 2022
5

very cool

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Mon May 16 2022
5

minne meg om videregåande såg dei på bergenfest for nåken år siden, var bra såg kygo utenfor strippeklubben på vei heim

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Mon May 23 2022
5

Elemental, beautiful, atmospheric, idiosyncratic. It is what I imagine the ambient sound in Iceland to be!

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Mon May 30 2022
5

I can only assume this is what the soundtrack to life in the womb sounds like.

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Sun Jun 12 2022
5

VMP

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Thu Jul 07 2022
5

Love love

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Sun Jul 10 2022
5

Pretty, in icelandic, radiohead pablo honey-esque

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Fri Jul 15 2022
5

This morning I was walking in the nearby wetlands, on a foggy morning. Revisiting this album. I almost forgot how warm, ethereal and beautiful music can make me feel. This is one of the most amazing pieces of music ever made.

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Fri Jul 15 2022
5

Já við þekkjum þessa

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Thu Jul 21 2022
5

I just deleted all my notes accidentally oh my god here we go I could never really get into sigur rós because of the new language thing but I think it is cool in concept The instrumentals fit the singing well in almost every track The new language is kind of growing on me now I like it I kinda like how each track is really long for some reason The singing is really well executed even though I dont understand it I enjoyed this project way more than I thought I would and I really loved it I am blown away 10/10

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Tue Jul 26 2022
5

This dreamscape they created is the most unique sound to come out of music in decades

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Sat Jul 30 2022
5

Aged wonderfully since I first heard it years and years ago. Beautiful, cathartic, classic.

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Mon Aug 01 2022
5

Peaceful. Inspiring. Dreamy. Hypnotic. Magic. Essential. Breathtaking. Wonderful. Post Rock. 1999. Sigur Rós. Ágætis Byrjun.

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Mon Nov 22 2021
5

Atmospheric while also never just melding into the background.

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Sun Aug 21 2022
5

The best. I am so glad to revisit this album with more mature ears.

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Mon Aug 22 2022
5

I _really_ like me some cinematic post-rock, and this is a great album, sure, but its inclusion on the list throws into sharp relief all the other bands from this genre that have been omitted. We could comfortably halve the number of albums by white (mostly British) guys ripping off the blues in the 60s and 70s and include more representatives of splinter genres, and that would make a much more interesting list... So, this 5 star review is dedicated not just to Sigur Ros, but to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, Do Make Say Think, Mono, A Silver Mt. Zion, Explosions in the Sky, and 65daysofstatic! Fave track - "Svefn-g-englar", I think - I coincidentally rewatched "Vanilla Sky" between listening to this and writing the review, and it's used excellently in the film...

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