Sound: Recorded in their converted swimming pool studio in Reykjavik, Iceland, "Takk..." is Sigur Ros' fourth studio album and arguably the highlight of their musical career, bringing them firmly into commercial recognition across the world. The title of the record, literally translating as thank you, already suggests a more positive direction for the band. The sound itself is certainly more uplifting than their previous releases, particularly contrasting with the solemnity of, while at the same time moving away from the musical experimentation of Ágætis Byrjun towards a more set, comfortable sound. The album depicts a band that has finally found their sound, their trademark, and are at last able to fully relax into creating it. Whether or not this is fully a good direction to head is debatable, as the beauty of previous Sigur Ros releases lies partly in the unpredictability of every minute, in the feeling that each song is a personal process of discovery for a band still experimenting with sound and not knowing fully where it is leading them. Takk... is dominated by strings, more so than in previous albums, depicting a more commercial sound (leading to the usage of songs in films and adverts).
But despite the more commercial feeling to the record, Takk... still manages to be as beautifully unpredictable as their previous records. Singer and guitarist Jónsi's bowed guitar returns in full force in songs such as Svo Hljott and Glosoli, gently building to their hammering crescendos, but it is largely the percussion which leads the album, not only in Orri's drums but also in xylophones, bells and piano, adding a drama and volume to the record that previous albums never fully concentrated on. Jónsi's childlike voice soars instrument like above the textured, chaotic climaxes of songs such as "Gong" and "Hoppípolla," and relaxes softly into equally childlike points in the record where the music dips from texture to simplicity, such as the stunningly simple xylophone and brass of "Se Lest," and the calm finish of "Heysatan," which brings the roaring, sweeping album to a beautiful, serene close. // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics of the album are certainly not held in as much importance by the band; in fact Takk... is split evenly between Icelandic vocals and gibberish lyrics termed Vonlensku (Hopelandic) by the band. This made up "language" has featured extensively in Sigur Rós' back catalogue, in particular, and allows Jónsi's voice to be used more as an instrument than a narrative tool, as well as leaving the songs open to personal interpretation. The Icelandic lyrics within the album are generally uplifting and childlike, in particular "Hoppípolla" (Hopping in Puddles). Although knowing the lyrics holds no distinct importance, as the music completely dominates, some of the lyrics help to create visual meaning for the songs: "Sæglópur" (Lost At Sea) tells of a sailor lost at sea, and the pitter patter xylophone and crashing guitar climax sound suddenly like the ocean. "Glósóli" tells of a man searching for the sun, the story fitting with the climactic build-up of the guitars, and "Heysátan" (Haystack) depicts an old man dying peacefully and contentedly, amplifying the calm serenity of the song. // 10
Overall Impression: It is difficult to rate "Takk..." in relation to other Sigur Ros releases. It is not the greatest album by the band, nor is it the worst. It does however combine the innocence of "Ágætis Byrjun" with the musical ambitiousness of, a formula which works in creating a near flawless album which improves and further opens up with each listen. Yes, some of the songs on the album are grandiose and sound perhaps a little too filmic for some fans of their previous albums, but I believe that it is this over the top aspect that makes the album so endearing and unique. It is also difficult to compare the album, or indeed the band, to other artists. The album reflects the thundering instrumentalism of Explosions In The Sky, the calm beauty of The Album Leaf and the musical ingenuity of Set Fire To Flames, but none of these bands, or any bands that I know of, draws a close comparison to the sound of "Takk...", it is so unique. That is the defining point of this album, the absolute uniqueness of it, that it cannot be mistaken for anyone but Sigur Ros. You cannot pigeonhole the band with genres and comparisons, just as you cannot explain the music in words and technical descriptions. You have to hear it, and hear it again and again. Whether you like the music or not, it will make an impression on you, and a completely personal one. It is not an album to be dissected and analysed, it is very much an album to be felt. As bassist Georg puts it, "things that are dissected usually need to be dead first," and Takk... is definitely an album that will not die, instead becoming more enjoyable the more it is listened to. // 10