Scandinavian orchestral-rock group Sigur Rós should be one of the most reviled acts on the pop landscape: Its songs typically last eight minutes, it titles albums with symbols, singer Jon Thor Birgisson makes up his own words, and, last but certainly not least, it's a Scandinavian orchestral-rock group. Yet nobody else making records today sounds like Sigur Rós. And nobody's making records as gorgeous and as mind-blowing.
With its fourth album, Takk . . . , Sigur Rós fortifies its position as one of the few new-millennium bands that bothers to craft entire sets of songs -- an escalating rarity in the iPod age. Takk . . . 's 11 cuts are connected by a harmonic, if not lyrical, thread. (Birgisson at least strings together genuine Icelandic words this time around.) The melancholy horns that join the parade on "Se Lest" eventually give way to "Saeglopur," a momentous set piece that erupts in a discharge of choral voices, horns, strings, and bowed guitar. And the 10-minute "Milano" amounts to modern classical music played with a rock-band aesthetic. (And yes, Sigur Rós actually named its new songs; 2002's ( ) included eight untitled tracks.) If all this sounds similar to 2000's breakthrough CD, Ágætis Byrjun, well, it sorta is. But atmospheric mood music's never sounded so elevating or inviting.