There's a big naughty "P" word that always comes to mind when approaching albums such as the new Sigur Rós release: pretense. It's a hated word and artistically inclined rock bands should try to avoid it like the plague. And on Sigur Rós's previous effort they proved leagues of critics, armed with the "P" word, terribly wrong. So here I sit with the new record in front of me - an eight track cd with no album title, no song titles, and "liner notes" that consist of twelve blank pages - and all that comes to mind is our eight-lettered enemy.
Of course, all preconceptions fade the second the album begins. With the number of post-rock bands out there nowadays, it's nice to see that Sigur Rós have carved their own little niche and developed a distinctive style. The defining element, of course, being Jón ţór Birgisson's unmistakably beautiful vocals. Like previous material, the lyrics on the album are presented in the fictional language "Hopelandic." This is a non-issue, however, as the music carries more than enough emotional weight on its own.
Musically, this album doesn't stray far from its predecessor. The only problem I've found is that the material on "( )" seems far less organic than on "Ágćtis Byrjun." The songs sound extemely well rehearsed and orchestrated. Not that this is a bad thing, it makes for a more polished sounding album. But it does compromise some of the magic found in the fresh spontaneous sound of "Ágćtis Byrjun." The eight songs here flow into each other with the only break coming between the (imagined) A and B sides. Standout tracks include "Track 4" and "Track 8."
If you are familiar with Sigur Rós than this album won't come as a surprise to you but you also shouldn't have any problems enjoying it. If you new to Sigur Rós than this album is a decent introduction to their body of work, but for the best experience, I recommend "Ágćtis Byrjun."