One Friday night last spring, I found myself wedged between two impossibly hip Brooklynites on a sagging couch, watching an oddly transcendent film about an Icelandic band. Though probably one of the more obscure nights in my life, the stars of the film have achieved relative commercial success.
For an Icelandic band.
The film was Inni and the band was Sigur Rós. Sigur Rós entered the scene in 1994 without much initial hype. Their debut album, Von, sold fewer than four hundred copies in its first year. Don’t worry, the album has since been certified platinum. Lead vocalist Jónsi is too unusual for the band to be a flop. Known to take a cello bow to guitar strings and croon single falsetto notes for over a minute, Jónsi brings the band’s decidedly ethereal sound to a new level. When seen live, he almost resembles a mythical creature; his fantastical outfits and piercing blue eyes (one of which is blind) are haunting, which is fitting. Since Von, Jónsi and co. have released five studio albums. In May, they released “Valtari,” which broke into the top ten of the Billboard 200.
Their biggest hit, “Hoppípolla” (the Icelandic word for “jumping into puddles” – I know, I know, Iceland is too dope sometimes), is easily recognizable as the inspiring tune that accompanies movie trailers about animals, children, or animals and children (see: We Bought A Zoo). You may have felt misty-eyed and hopeful about the world upon first hearing it.
Yes, the lyrics are almost exclusively in Icelandic, but when it comes to ambient post-rock, discernible words aren’t really necessary. Put on Sigur Rós if you want some self-directed mood music.