When I heard the first single ("Gobbledigook") from the new Sigur Ros album Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, it sounded like just the change I felt like the group needed to make in order to stay exciting to my ears. Not only does the track burst forth and play out in just over only a three minute running length, but it ditches everything conventional about the group, opting for a sort of chanting tribal folk with pounding drums, guitars, and chattering vocals that pushes the group into exciting new territory. Unfortunately, about half of the rest of the eleven song album fails to capture the same sort of vibrance.
Really, it's wrong of me to expect the group to pump out an entire album of pop-length tracks that do away with what has almost become their almost trademark orchestral rock sound, but it's a bit unfortunate because the first half of this release plays out so well. "Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur" follows the rambunctious album opener with a gorgeous horn and chime-laced pop track that's uplifting and moving, while "Við Spilum Endalaust" finds the group compressing horns, meaty bass, and wheezy accordion into another stunner that packs everything that's beautiful about the group into only three and a half minutes. The shorter songs don't feel like they're missing a thing, packing the usual emotional wallop of the group into just as successful packages (albeit more concise ones).
On "Festival," they finally stretch out to over nine minutes, and while the first half of the song is a bit on the syrupy side, the second half of the track builds with a rifling snare and signature blowout that makes for a nice payoff. From there, though, the group gets downright ponderous, and in some cases seems to enter into self-parody mode.
Stuffed with a 90 piece choir and massive instrumentation, "Ára Bátur" is certainly meant to be the peak of the release, but the laborious, soft piano introduction section and final emotional sweep are so over-dramatic and treacly that you almost expect them to be playing over final film credits of a bad romance novel adaptation. The last four songs of the album backpedal even more, mostly finding singer Jonski Birgisson doing his usual thing over more sparse instrumentation (piano and/or guitars with occasional string backing). None of the songs are particularly bad, but run together they add up to a completely lackluster ending to an album that started out with such promise.
In the end, Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust feels even more frustrating to me than Takk... simply because the group plays with such interesting ideas early on only to seemingly abandon them completely for watery sentimentality during the last half hour or so of the album. Rather than starting with a whimper and ending with a bang (which was probably the progression of their () album), this release is the exact opposite. I'll give them some credit for trying some new things, I only wish they would have taken things a step further.