the glacial icelandic quartet discover pop and an inner beauty, to ben thompson's delight (*****)
it's not a joke to say that "takk . . ." is sigur ros's most accessible album, but anyone who heard its cryptic predecessor, "()," knows that the icelandic quartet has a long way to paddle to reach the mainstream.
specialists in abstract soundscapes that sometimes coalesce into melody, singer jonsi birgisson and his cohorts don't construct verse-chorus-verse rockers or loop-and-thump ravers. but the band, working with co-producer ken thomas, has brought new focus and presence to its wispy music on "takk . . . " (which means "thanks"). while such fantasias as the 10-minute "milano" resemble a mash-up of eno, sibelius and radiohead, the pretty (and relatively compact) "hoppipolla" has moments that suggest a nordic interpretation of circa 1966 beach boys.
the group has playfully labeled "takk . . . " its rock 'n' roll album, and the drums and guitars are more emphatic than before; "glosoli" even builds to a climax that crashes and burns like my bloody valentine. devotees of sigur ros's breakthrough release, 1999's "agaetis byrjun," may find this one too extroverted. yet there are many familiar timbres, starting with birgisson's falsetto and including twinkling keyboards and slithering bowed instruments (guitar and violin). what has changed is the sense of dynamics, which doesn't alter the band's fundamental design. it's just that many of this disc's loveliest passages are set off by roars rather than whispers.