Sound — 10
Recorded in the band's infamous swimming pool studio in Iceland, "Ágætis Byrjun" is a pure masterpiece. Running 73 minutes long, "Ágætis Byrjun," which means an alright start, deals with matters of life, death, afterlife and rebirth. Jonsi uses a cello bow for most of the songs creating an atmospheric ambience that is haunting and beautiful; complimented perfectly by beautiful piano melodies and string accompaniments. On top of all of this is Jonsi's singing. Since he primarily sings in a very high falsetto the vocals sound more like another instrument than a traditional singer. This CD has many very interesting elements to it that you wouldn't expect. For example, the intro track is a riff from the song "Svefn-G-Englar", which means angels or sleepwalkers, reversed. Likewise, the last song on the CD, "Avalon," is a riff from the title track "Ágætis Byrjun," slowed down. In the song, "Ný Batterí," Orri, the drummer, uses a cymbal which he found on the side of the road. A car had run over the cymbal and this gave the cymbal a very clashy quality which suites the song. In the song "Hjartad Hamast" the band experiments with a funky bass line and a harmonica, creating a truly unique Sigur Ros song.
Lyrics — 10
Unlike most of the Sigur Ros albums, "Ágætis Byrjun" has actual lyrics for the majority of their songs instead of the usual "Hopelandish" which is a completely fictional language Jonsi made up. These lyrics, however, are meaningful and match the songs perfectly. Most notably in the song "Svefn-G-Englar," Jonsi says, "I explode out and the piece is no more, I cry, I cry disconnected." Vocally this CD is incredible. Jonsi's otherworldly voice soars with great intensity and tenderness. Even if you can't quite understand what he is saying, you can feel it through the passion that he sings with. Considering that Jonsi only became the singer of Sigur Ros because no one else could sing is astonishing. Jonsi's unparalleled falsetto's melt perfectly with the band and are absorbed in the ethereal bliss that is Sigur Ros.
Overall Impression — 10
"Ágætis Byrjun" launched the band to worldwide recognition and this is still one of their best albums to date. With tracks like the mournful yet optimistic "Svefn-G-Englar," and the calm and peaceful title track, "Ágætis Byrjun," this band established itself as leaders in post-rock music. The wall of ambient feedback produced is nostalgic of wind in rustling through the trees, or waves crashing on the shore. The music is beautiful, haunting, dismal, and optimistic all at once. Ironically the last lyrics on the CD are, "We sit down, excited, listen to ourselves play the music... But it didn't sound good, we were all in agreement. We'll do better next time. This is an alright start." This is much more than an alright start, it is an incredible album, and a must have for Sigur Ros fans, or post-rock fans in general.