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(Note from Beliefnet editor Patton Dodd: Peter Manseau‘s Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter kept me up for hours the night that I began it. I know Manseau to be a gifted, even gripping writer–his memoir, Vows, is a gorgeous page-turner–but […]

The news that David Foster Wallace hung himself this weekend came as such a shock not only because it was the news of great loss for literary and academic culture–which it is–but also because it seemed like such a contrary […]

As someone who begins to look forward to Sunday morning’s “Meet the Press” sometime on Saturday afternoon, I am shocked and dismayed at the news of Tim Russert’s fatal heart attack. TV news is so consistently bad that I rarely […]

It’s an annual tradition as firmly planted in our culture as Thanksgiving turkey, July 4 fireworks, and Barbara Walters specials: year-end best and worst lists, Top 10s, awards, and all the debates and discussions they inspire. I love this stuff, […]

Most obvious is the overwhelming sense of awe that comes from Sigur Ros’ music. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote, and compositions like “I Gaer,” are charged with that same grandeur. Starting with a modest glockenspiel melody, the song suddenly cracks open like a raging electrical storm, a billowing frenzy of guitars and drums. The band is joined on many tracks by the Icelandic string quartet Amiina, and together, the musicians build songs that can only be described with breathless hyperbole and metaphor: angels dancing, birds soaring above clouds, flyover shots of glaciers. There’s such a hugeness to this music–the melodies are clearly in service of something more than entertainment or selling CDs.
Also, Sigur Ros understands how to create space for listeners to experience songs. This is true both because of the long moments of profound stillness in their music, and the openness with which their lyrics can be interpreted. While many of Birgisson’s lyrics are in Icelandic, some are also in a wordless vocal style he once called “Volenska” (usually translated as “Hopelandish”). There’s been a lot of unnecessary media hype about this “language,” but perhaps it’s close to what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote of “groans too deep for words.” The lyrics to “Vaka” sound like this:

ee-sai-a-lo,
ee-so ee-saw-ee-slow,
ee-so …
you-shy-naw-no-ee-oh

What does that mean, exactly? Nothing, or maybe everything. “You saw the light?” “He saw you low?” “You shine on us?” Or something entirely different? Combine these vocals with the band’s aptitude for epic, reverent, hymn-like songs, and it seems Sigur Ros has given us a language for worship, a kind of less-spooky speaking in tongues.
“Hvarf/Heim,” along with the band’s last two albums, “( )” and “Takk,” are utterly burn-worthy. Listen, and before long, you’ll be singing along in your own language.

Barry Bonds is busted. He’ll probably never own up to his guilt, and his lawyers might successfully get him off or significantly reduce whatever sentence he may receive. But he’ll always be an embarrassment to baseball, and he’ll forever evoke […]

I was not fortunate enough to be alive during the Norman Mailer heyday of the 1960s and early 1970s, when his writing on the American scene—from electoral politics to boxing to the space program to the Vietnam war and its […]

Click Here to Listen to “Radio Nowhere” from “Magic” Doug Howe has already spread the good news of the new Bruce Springsteen album in this space, joining a chorus of hand-clapping reviewers since “Magic” debuted this fall. (A.O. Scott at […]

This is the way Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly explains what is happening to the Colorado Rockies this fall: “When it seemed even [Rockies fans’] patience had run out, God looked down and said, ‘Oh, geez, are those people still believers? […]

Here at Burn or Burn, we’ve been careful not to encourage dishonesty: you’ll notice that when we advise you to digitally burn a record, it’s as an extra copy, say for your car. We’re good citizens, and it is still […]

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