Diverging substantially in sound from their Troubled Production-plagued debut Von, this marked the first album by the group in which they figured out their signature style of post-rock by way of ethereal, ambient soundscapes, defined by the use of Jónsi Birgisson's cello-bowed guitar and a string octet.
All vocals on the album are in Icelandic, save for "Olsen Olsen" and the last section of the Title Track, which are in the gibberish language Vonlenska ("Hopelandic") that the band invented while producing Von.
It became the group's critical and commercial breakthrough, having reached a platinum status-earning 10,000 sales in their native Iceland and was certified gold in Britain.
- "Intro"note (1:36)
- "Svefn-g-englar"note (10:03)
- "Starálfur"note (6:45)
- "Flugufrelsarinn"note (7:47)
- "Ný batterí"note (8:09)
- "Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)"note (7:09)
- "Viðrar vel til loftárása"note (10:16)
- "Olsen Olsen" (8:02)
- "Ágætis byrjun"note (7:55)
- "Avalon" (4:01)
Ónýttur trope settur á brjóst og mataður af svefn, svefn-g-englum:
- Album Intro Track: "Intro".
- Album Title Drop:
- The image quote in the Title Track.
- "Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)" has not only a title drop for this album, but also the two previous ones: með von að vin ég vinn upp smá tíma/leita að ágætis byrjun/en verð að vonbrigðum ("With hope as my friend I make up some time/I look for an alright beginning/But I will be disappointed").
- The liner notes to the album also contain the line: Ég gaf ykkur von sem varð að vonbrigðum. Þetta er ágætis byrjun. ("I gave you hope which became a disappointment. This is a good beginning.") The second sentence is also used in the Title Track.
- Epic Instrumental Opener:
- The album opens with an ethereal intro that consists of a section of the album's Title Track (eight tracks later) converted to instrumental and reversed.
- "Viðrar vel til loftárása" takes 5 minutes before any lyrics appear—half of the song.
- Epic Rocking: The only track that doesn't fall under either this or Miniscule Rocking (which the Album Intro Track does) is "Avalon".
- Fading into the Next Song:
- The album intro ends with the same rumble and submarine-esque beep heard throughout the next song, "Svefn-g-englar".
- The Last Note Nightmare of "Staralfur" transitions into "Flugufrelsarinn", which then carries its concluding trumpet-filled ambience into the start of "Ný batterí".
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: A running theme throughout the album, appearing at the end of "Svefn-g-englar" and throughout "Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)".
- Hell Is That Noise / Last Note Nightmare:
- "Starálfur" ends with its lush melodies fading away into almost a solid minute of eerie noises, at which point it transitions into the next (and considerably more solemn) song, "Flugufrelsarinn".
- "Avalon" ends with creepy rumbling before suddenly stopping.
- Instrumental: "Intro," "Avalon".
- Intercourse with You: "Svefn-g-englar" is about the joy that comes with passionate sex.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Ágætis byrjun" is a beautiful tune about the bands' disappointment after they found that their first album sounded bad.
- Non-Appearing Title:
- "Svefn-g-englar" doesn't actually appear in the title of the song, but it comes close with "Svefn-g-englum."
- "Flugufrelsarinn" mentions flies (flugu), but never actually says the title itself.
- "Olsen Olsen," being entirely in Hopelandic, is pretty unintelligible even for Icelandic speakers.
- Non-Indicative Name:
- "Viðrar vel til loftárása" is Icelandic for "Good Weather for an Airstrike", which title-wise is in a completely different universe from the song itself. The band got the title from a weatherman sarcastically reporting "Today: good weather for an airstrike" while NATO was bombing Serbia during the Kosovo War.
- In a freaky coincidence, the album itself was actually released on 12 June 1999, the day Slobodan Miloević agreed to withdraw the Serbian forces and UN peacekeepers began being deployed in Kosovo.
- Portmantitle: "Stara"note + "Álfur"note = "Starálfur"note
- Rearrange the Song: The Album Intro Track is an instrumental section of the Title Track played backwards over a drone.
- Sdrawkcab Name: The Album Intro Track is sometimes referred to by the band as "Nujryb sitægá".
- Singing Simlish: The band uses a made-up language called Vonlenska (Hopelandic) in "Olsen Olsen" and at the end of "Ágætis byrjun".
- Textless Album Cover