Something’s rotten in Hopeland. Or, at the very least, something’s different, judging from the final track on Sigur Rós’ fifth album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. The song is called “All Alright,” and it’s not sung in the band’s native Icelandic, or even Hopelandic, the language the group created for use on 2002 LP ( ). It’s straight-up English—a first in Sigur Rós’ decade-plus recording career.
Does that singular deviation signal a grand overall departure? Sort of. Though the disc’s title translates to With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly, the slow-burning quartet doesn’t burn nearly as endlessly as on past efforts, opting for melodic pop structures over the heroic buildups of epics gone by. It will likely be an unwelcome mutation for those who (seriously) likened Sigur Rós to a religious experience. Now, it’s a bit more like Coldplay-in-Icelandic, and that probably won’t continue to well the tear ducts of live audiences … at least not for the same reasons as before.
For the first chunk of the disc’s running order, the change actually feels somewhat welcome. From peppy leadoff single “Gobbledigook” through anthemic second cut “Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur”—easily the album’s individual standout—on to fragile ballad “Góðan Daginn,” Með suð shifts enough to remain interesting. After that, not so much. Fourth song “Við Spilum Endalaust” is the closest the band has ever come to predictable piano pop, and after that it’s—count ’em—seven straight ballads to close the record out. Heck, even Chris Martin knows better than to sequence like that.
As for that English track, it’s the nadir of an altogether disappointing experience. Not so much because Jónsi Birgisson’s lyrics are (barely) discernible, but because “All Alright” comes at the end, when it’s clear beyond a doubt that things are so not all right.
The bottom line:**1/2