Follow TV Tropes


Music / Sigur Rós

Go To
L to R: Orri, Jónsi, Goggi


The other famous musical act from Iceland, Sigur Rós (pronounced "si-urnote  roasnote ") are an Alternative Rock band commonly classified as "post-rock", known for their ethereal sound and frontman Jónsi Birgisson's distinctive falsetto voice.

Its members are as follows:

  • Jónsi (Jón Þór Birgisson) - vocals, guitar, keyboards (1994-)
  • Goggi (Georg Hólm) - bass, glockenspiel the band's best English speaker (1994-)
  • Kjarri (Kjartan Sveinsson) - keyboards, guitar, flute, backing vocals, orchestral arrangements (1998-2013, 2022)
  • Orri Páll Dýrason - drums, keyboards (1999-2018)
  • Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson - drums (1994-1999)

Sigur Rós were formed in 1994 by Jónsi, Georg and Ágúst, taking their name from Jónsi's younger sister Sigurrós (Icelandic for "victory rose") Elin. Drawing their main influences from Dream Pop and Shoegazing bands, the band signed with the Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) label and released one album, Von, in 1997. Known more for its drawn-out, torturous recording than its actual songs, Von largely falls under the banner of Early Installment Weirdness as far as many fans, critics and even the band are concerned. A remix album, Von brigði, followed a year later.


After recruiting classically trained keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, the band released Ágætis byrjun in 1999. It was with this album that the band perfected its Signature Style, fully integrating Kjarri's lush orchestration with their Dream Pop/Shoegazing sound and introducing Jónsi's method of playing his guitar with a cello bow (a method previously popularised by Jimmy Page) for a more atmospheric sound. The replacement of drummer Ágúst with Orri Páll Dýrason shortly after the album's release proved not to be too dramatic. They recorded two more albums with largely the same musical style during the early-to-mid-2000s, ( ) and Takk..., swinging between Darker and Edgier and Lighter and Softer, before settling for a more stripped-down, direct sound with Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust in 2008.


After scrapping the recordings for the album that they intended to release in 2010 and taking a two-year hiatus, the band dropped Valtari, a much more ambient, dreamlike album compared to Með suð. Later in the year, they announced via a Reddit Q&A session that keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson had left the band permanently, making the group a trio. According to them, Kjartan said "he had spent his whole life in the band and it was time to do something different", but remained on good terms with his former bandmates. The band then released Kveikur in June 2013, a Darker and Edgier New Sound Album that incorporated elements of industrial music to the point of being described by Georg Hólm as "an anti-Valtari".

Hallmarks of the band's sound include: a wall of guitars, keyboards and violins, Jónsi's high-pitched, Liz Fraser-sounding falsetto voice, use of bowed guitar, frequent use of a made-up nonsense language named "Vonlenska" ("hopelandic"), dramatic crescendos and dynamics, and success despite the fact that most of their audience most likely doesn't understand a lick of their lyrics. Yes, they're that good.

Discography (main studio albums in bold):

  • Von (1997) - "Hope"
    • Von brigði (1998) - "Hope Alteration", contains remixes of Von tracks. Nicknamed "Recycle Bin" due to its cover, and is also a pun in Icelandic, because vonbrigði in one word means "disappointment".
  • Ágætis byrjun (1999) - "An Alright Start"
  • Rímur EP (2001)
  • ( ) (2002)
  • Hlemmur (2003) - Soundtrack album; the name comes from Reykjavík's main bus terminal.
  • Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do EP (2004)
  • Takk... (2005) - "Thanks..."
  • Hvarf/Heim (2007) - "Disappeared/Home", compilation album. Hvarf has studio versions of previously unreleased songs, and Heim has live acoustic versions of previously-released Sigur Rós songs.
  • Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (2008) - "With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly"
  • We Play Endlessly (2009) - Compilation album of songs from works released after the band signed with Parlophone. Was given away for free with the British newspaper The Independent.
  • Valtari (2012) - "Steamroller"
  • Kveikur (2013) - "Wick"
  • "The Rains of Castamere" (2014) - A single, covering the Lannister family song from Game of Thrones in a dirge-like, melancholic manner.
  • Route One (created 2016, released 2018) - Over the 2016 summer solstice, the band embarked on a 24-hour journey around Iceland's coastal ring road set to an evolving mix of elements of the song "Óveður". The best bits were mixed into a 40-minute vinyl album released in the spring of 2018.
    • "Óveður" (2016)
  • "End" (2017) - A single from the Black Mirror episode Black Mirror: Hang the DJ, somehow dreamlike and calming at the same time.

The band also has two documentary/concert DVDs:

  • Heima (2006), which follows the band through Iceland as they play free concerts to their compatriots.
  • Inni (2011), which was filmed at a concert they did in London in 2008, shot in black-and-white with artsy camera angles, and interspersed with some archive footage of the band.

Sigur Tropes:

  • Album Intro Track:
    • Ágætis byrjun has one simply titled "Intro".
    • The title track of Takk... is effectively this as well.
  • Album Title Drop: "Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)" has not only a title drop for its parent 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 "Ágætis byrjun" also contains 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 track of the album with the same name.
    • Ba ba ti ki di do has a fractured, spoken Title Drop in its final track courtesy of collaborator Merce Cunningham.
    • Multiple declensions for Kveikur but if you're looking for the word as it is, it's in "Stormur".
  • Boléro Effect: Well, they are a Post-Rock band.
  • Bookends: ( ) begins and ends with a click of distortion.
  • Break Up Song: "Ísjaki". Whoever had hurt any of the band's members enough to write lyrics built on fire and ice, no one knows for sure.
  • Careful with That Axe: At the end of "Hún Jörð".
  • Cover Version: The single release of "Ný batterí" includes among its B-sides a cover of "Dánarfregnir og Jarðarfarir" ("News of Death and Funerals"), a theme played before obituary announcements on Iceland's national public broadcaster RÚV, and "Bíum bíum bambaló", a rendition of a traditional Icelandic lullaby.
  • Cue the Rain: Sigur Rós seem to be a magnet for inclement weather whenever they're on tour. On the upside of this being a Running Gag, it makes their performance all the more magical to the fans who came to see them.
  • Darker and Edgier: Kveikur zigzags this. A scattered half of the album (especially the earlier tracks) play this trope straight; others downplay the trope but are still more aggressive and energetic tracks compared to most other songs in their back catalog.
  • Downer Ending: The video for "Viðrar vel til loftárása" ends with two boys being pulled away from each other by their fathers after said fathers see them kiss.
  • Dream Pop: Moreso in their early days, but really all of it is great to fall asleep to. Well, almost all of it.
  • Drone of Dread:
    • "Sigur Rós", the self-titled opening track of Von.
    • "Hrýggjarsúla" starts with a drilling noise a la "Kveikur" but when the more "Brennisteinn"-familiar cuts kick in, the piece softens up a bit.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Von. The album is a series of drones and sound experiments, sprinkled with heavily reverberated, Cocteau Twins-esque dream pop.
  • Echoing Acoustics: Jónsi's guitar-and-bow combo relies on this oh so much.
    • Invoked in Heima; this trope is the exact reason why the band and their buddy string quartet Amiina decided to record "Gítardjamm" in an abandoned herring cannery in Djúpavík.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener:
    • Ágætis byrjun opens with an ethereal intro that consists of a section of the album's Title Track (eight tracks later) converted to instrumental and reversed.
    • Takk... opens with a Title Track that consists of a brief yet lush and stripped-down instrumental reprise of the next track, "Glósóli".
  • Epic Rocking: Frequent.
    • As a result of their habit of song lengths stretching upwards of 10 minutes, their earlier album runtimes regularly exceeded an hour in length. Takk... and Með suð were the first albums to include more songs in the 3-5 minute length range.
    • "Untitled #8 (Popplagið)" deserves special mention though: the entire 12-minute song is basically one big crescendo. It often gets even longer when performed live.
    • Their longest song ever is "Untitled #7 (Dauðalagið)" off of ( ), clocking in at thirteen minutes.
  • Fading into the Next Song:
    • Ágætis byrjun:
      • 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 "Ny Batteri".
    • Takk...:
      • The album has two instances of a song being either preceded or followed by a reprise of it; the Title Track reprises and transitions into "Glósóli", and "Hoppípolla" transitions into "Með blóðnasir", which essentially acts as an extended outro.
      • "Gong" into "Andvari".
      • "Svo Hljótt" into "Heysátan".
    • The final five tracks of Með suð are all connected by the sound of room tone; a special case lies in "Fljótavík" and "Straumnes", since the latter reprises the former.
  • Gay Aesop: The ending to the video for "Viðrar vel til loftárása".
  • Genre-Busting: They're categorized as "Post-Rock" because that's the only thing that comes even remotely close. Crescendos are a significant element in their songs, after all.
    • "Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)", from Ágætis byrjun, combines the band's usual Shoegazing bombast with a Blues Rock keyboard riff and Jónsi playing the harmonica.
    • The first song they premiered from Kveikur, "Brennisteinn," takes their usual mix of ethereal sounds and adds Industrial Metal into it. Yeah.
    • Kveikur as a whole can be argued as their harshest and heaviest album and simultaneously as being their poppiest album behind Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust.
  • Grim Up North: Norður og Niður ("north and down"), a four-night-long art festival Sigur Rós and friends organized in Reykjavík near the end of 2017note , is rooted in this trope. The expression itself connotes "going to hell" in Icelandic.
  • Hell Is That Noise: "Brennisteinn". A rumbling noise fades in for about 20 seconds before the band make their grand entrance.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Jónsi has a penchant for long falsetto notes.
    • "Festival" may be the most famous example. The album version's no slouch, but during live performances he holds it for even longer.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: If you don't speak Icelandic, you're in for this. Even if you speak Icelandic, you're in for this whenever Jónsi busts out the Vonlenska.
  • It Amused Me: The band's allowing "Untitled #4 (The Nothing Song)" to be used in Vanilla Sky was the first time they had ever licensed their music for film use, and it was reportedly partially due to Jónsi finding the image of Tom Cruise acting over his music "funny".
  • Lampshade Hanging: The song title "Gobbledigook". Let it never be said that these guys don't have a sense of humor about the whole made-up language thing.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Holy shit. For a band that seems to be W.A.F.F. incarnate, this happens a lot.
    • Drone of Dread:
    • Hell Is That Noise:
      • "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".
      • "Hjartað hamast" is overrun with an entire wall of noise after the last refrain.
      • Subtle ones on "Svefn-g-englar" and "Sé lest". The former combines the trope with Heartbeat Soundtrack while the latter sounds more like a music box being wound up.
      • "Di do", from the three-minute mark, is gradually overrun by Harsh Noise (though you can hear the Ominous Music Box Tune underneath it).
    • Other particular cases of note:
      • "Hún Jörð", twice: first a laughing and screaming Jónsi, then that whole finale rewinds at high speed until it winds down like your record player just broke.
      • "Avalon". After you've finally adjusted to the slow and haunting tempo, weird clanking noises come in. note 
      • "Hrafntinna" subverts this. It definitely goes into one after the last chorus, as the song slowly falls apart until it's only the drums and hellish drones when Jónsi's distorted voice comes in but fades into a very mournful, but soothing horn section. "Brennisteinn" ends similarly, with a similarly downplayed but much more triumphant sounding horn section at the end.
      • Inversions: "Dögun", which starts with a blast of Harsh Noise reeling from the end of the previous track and then softens up later on; "Brennisteinn", "Hryggjarsúla", and "Viðrar vel til loftárása".
  • Le Film Artistique: For Valtari, the band had a project they called "the valtari mystery film experiment" in which they hired multiple directors and gave them each the same modest budget and allowed them each to make a video based on the first thing they thought of for each song on Valtari with absolute creative freedom and control without any input from the band. Most of the videos ended up being this.
  • Lighter and Softer: After the success of several heartwarming songs on Takk..., their next album Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust is considerably more upbeat and poppy.
    • After that, the ambient Valtari. Almost the whole album gives off the vibe that the world slows down to it. If you listen to the bonus tracks, especially "Kvistur", you'll even find that it's the perfect setting for Sigur Rós to leap from W.A.F.F. incarnate to the more aggressive, energetic sound of Kveikur.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: Taken Up to Eleven with ( ), where every single song has the same lyrics, which is one line repeated in several different ways. See Singing Simlish below.
  • Long Title: Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The album ( ). Its songs are generally referred to as "Untitled #1", "Untitled #2" and so on, with alternate names used by the band to identify them.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: At least, for English speakers, one might be disappointed to look up translations to many of their songs' lyrics and find that they are oddly mundane, contrasting with the grandiosity of their music. Especially "Ágætis Byrjun", which is about the bands' disappointment after they found that their first album sounded crappy.
    • "Heysátan". Precision F-Strike aside, this rather gentle epilogue to Takk is basically about a farmer who slipped to his death off a Massey Ferguson tractor. Andskotann indeed.
    • "Hrafntinna" provides a doozy of one. While the song sounds quite mournful and a bit depressing, it still fits in with their usual output and has a very catchy melody. The lyrics are pure apocalyptic horror.
  • Lyrical Tic: Mostly anything that rhymes with the word "you". "Svefn-g-englar" in particular has a chorus so replete with tjú that it's become a signature sound for Jónsi.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: They write majestic-sounding songs about the oddest things. Case in point: probably their most popular song "Hoppípolla", an incredible piece that even non-fans consider awesome - it's about how much Jónsi enjoys jumping in puddles, even though it gives him a nosebleed.
  • Nightmare Face: The baby on the cover for Von. It gets more egregious flipping through the album booklet.
    • Does it become less of a nightmare once you find out it's Jónsi's sister Ingibjörg, though?
  • 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, Ágætis byrjun was actually released on 12 June 1999, the day Slobodan Milošević agreed to withdraw the Serbian forces and UN peacekeepers began being deployed in Kosovo.)
    • The same goes for "Með blóðnasir", which is awfully cheerful for a song named literally "With a Nosebleed".
    • And "Popplagið" ("The Pop Song"), despite its catchy melody early on, isn't what you could in any way call a pop song.
    • Subverted by "Fyrsta" which isn't the first track on the album but was the first piece they wrote for ( ).
  • No Title: All of the songs on ( ), and possibly the album itself, although the band does use names to refer to and differentiate them.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: "Sæglópur".
    • Ba ba ti ki di do as a whole is this.
  • One Man Wail: Jónsi has made a career of this trope in and out of the band.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The band members are usually referred to by the shortened nicknames listed above, since their actual names may be more difficult to pronounce for non-Icelanders.
  • Portmantitle: Inverted - they actually split the name Sigurrós.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Heysátan" has two: "Eg hef slegið fjandans nóg" (I've mowed fucking enough) and "Og mér fótur rann... Andskotann" (I slipped... fuck).
    • 'Andskotann' makes another appearance in "Fljótavík".
  • Pun-Based Title: Von brigði separately means "Hope Alteration" (fitting, since it's a remix album), while Vonbrigði joined together means "disappointment" (reflecting the band's feelings about Von).
    • The song Svefn-g-englar: Svefngenglar simply means "Sleepwalkers." Englar also means "Angels," so the title is a forced pun and can be translated as "Sleepwalking Angels".
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • "Ágætis byrjun" → the Album Intro Track for Ágætis byrjun.
    • "Glósóli" → the Album Intro Track for Takk.
    • "Hoppípolla" → "Með Blóðnasir".
    • "Starálfur" → "Avalon".
    • "Brennisteinn" → "Hrýggjarsúla".
    • Von brigði in general.
    • Liminal—an ambient mixtape project curated by Jónsi, Alex Somers, and Paul Corley— is composed of both fresh material and reworks of old tracks by the band.
    • The live album Inni also features "Lúppulagið" (The Loop Song), which would eventually become "Varðeldur" on Valtari.
  • Record Producer: There is no real information about who produced Von so we have to assume it was self-produced, all of the band's albums from Ágætis byrjun to Takk were co-produced by the band and Ken Thomas, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust was co-produced by the band and Mark "Flood" Ellis, and Valtari was co-produced by the band and Jónsi's partner, Alex Somers.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Valtari (blue) and Kveikur (red). Georg even describes the latter as an anti-Valtari.
  • Rockumentary: Heima.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: This was what became of Georg's bass after Norður og Niður.
  • Scenery Porn: The Route One slow TV event was basically an entire day's worth of this.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Going hand in hand with Subliminal Seduction.
    • "Rukrym," a Hidden Track on Von, is a section of the song "Myrkur" played backwards.
    • The Album Intro Track to Ágætis byrjun does the same to its Title Track, and is sometimes referred to by the band as "Nujryb Sitægá".
  • Shoegazing
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Route One is technically just two tracks, each cut up into four at seemingly random places, hence this trope.
  • Singing Simlish: The band sometimes uses a made-up language called Vonlenska/Hopelandic in their songs, although they also use Icelandic, and it speaks volumes about their talents considering that the language does absolutely nothing to undermine the music's quality.
    • ( ) is completely made up of Vonlenska; the lyrics are made up of the following phrase, and various permutations of it: "You xylo. You xylo no fi lo. You so." For an hour, twelve minutes and 5 seconds.
  • Silence Is Golden:
    • Von contains a track called "18 sekúndur fyrir sólarupprás" which translates to "18 Seconds Before Sunrise" and consists of 18 seconds of silence.
    • There are also 36 seconds of silence separating the first four songs on ( ) from the last four. The gap separates the sunnier, more cheerful first half from the distinctly more downbeat second half (which also consists of substantially longer songs).
  • Solo Side Project: Jónsi has released Go, a distinctly more pop-sounding album than the band's usual Post-Rock output.
  • The Something Song: ( ) has "Njósnavélin" ("The Nothing Song"), "Dauðalagið" ("The Death Song"), and "Popplagið" ("The Pop Song").
    • Additionally, the working titles for "Hljómalind" and "Hoppípolla" were "Rokklagið" (The Rock Song) and "The Money Song," respectively, "Rokklagið" for being the most rock-like out of their songs, and "The Money Song" for the band's certainty that the song would be commercially successful.
    • "Njósnavélin" actually translates as "The Spy Machine", but "The Nothing Song" is a commonly used alternate title. "The Nothing Song" in Icelandic would be something more along the lines of "Ekkertalagið" (a native speaker may wish to revise this if needed).
  • Stage Names: Understandable since most of their audience aren't Icelandic speakers.
  • Subliminal Seduction:
    • The intro of Ágætis byrjun is an excerpted segment of the album's Title Track played in reverse sans its lead vocal track.
    • A la Daft Punk's Homework, Von ends with "Rukrym", an excerpted segment of a song on the album ("Myrkur") played in reverse.
  • Surprisingly Good English: Jónsi in "All Alright".
    • The majority of Jónsi's solo album Go, for that matter.
  • Surreal Horror: The lyrics to the heavier Kveikur tracks, and the video for "Brennisteinn".
  • Surreal Music Video: Quite a few.
  • Textless Album Cover: All of their albums between 1997 and 2002. ( ) was the first to put text on the cover.
  • Theme Naming: All of the songs on Kveikur have an elemental theme to them, as well as being related to the geography of Iceland. "Brennisteinn" translates to "Brimstone," "Hrafntinna" to "Obsidian," "Ísjaki" to "Iceberg," and so forth, with the exception of the title track (which translates to "Wick") and the Japanese bonus tracks.
    • Route One (at least its Spotify tracklist) is composed of eight tracks titled after certain coordinates that are part of Route 1, all arranged from lowest to highest latitude.
  • Title Track: All their albums except ( ) and Hvarf/Heim (if that counts as a proper album) have one... or in the case of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, two.
  • Titled After the Song: Inverted with their opening track to Von.
  • Uncommon Time: All over the place on Takk. From The Other Wiki:
    "In the track "Andvari" for example, the main melody repeats itself every 27 beats, with stress on beats 1, 5, 9, 11, 16, 20 and 25. This could be rendered as seven bars of 4, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5 and 3 beats respectively. Against this there is a steady counter-rhythm of triple time, which could be rendered as eighteen bars of 3/8 time per 27-beat cycle."
  • The Unpronounceable: Their names, song titles, album titles, lyrics... hell, nearly everything.
    • To the point where their official site has an Icelandic pronunciation guide.
  • Wham Shot: The two soccer playing boys kissing in the video for "Viðrar vel til loftárása".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "All Alright". Understandable, since apart from Georg, who lived in the UK for a while, the others' English is lacking.
    • Some of their Icelandic lyrics as well.