Most anything Sigur Ros touches turns to gold. And like its other albums, Valtari is sweet and pretty and draws forth emotions even though it's impossible to understand a stitch of the band's made-up Hopelandic language.
However, after a long wait and the high expectations imposed by the magic of the band's last studio album, 2008's Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, I was hoping for more. More new sounds, more evolution, just more.
The record isn't bad; it's just tame, inward-facing and, at first, boring.
Valtari is without a doubt the quietest record released by these ethereal Icelandic geniuses, and it feels a bit like listening to a chorus of wind chimes floating in a summer breeze.
Over the years, Sigur Ros has honed the ability to force catharsis from song structure without leaning on lyrical content. It's a rare talent that doesn't come along often in 21st century music. And Valtari is most certainly a Sigur Ros record. But after monumental tracks like "Gobbledigook" and "Festival," it's hard not to expect these guys to keep pushing it, to break their drums and their voices as they test the edges of their artform.
But maybe that's just what they're doing--testing an edge. How gentle can they be and still sneak an unexpected feeling? How long can they whisper something in your ear without you realizing, only to find yourself later repeating it?
In a musical universe that is ever cranked up to capacity, leave it to Sigur Ros to bring us to our knees with subtlety.