I just did this thing. I was excited that I'd just received an instant message from this girl I like, so with my arms under my chest, I pressed myself up against the desk with eyes nearing the computer screen, like how an eager boy glues himself to the storefront window around Christmas time. I was listening to "Olsen Olsen" and the cyclical, rhythmic bass that drives the song was vibrating through the desk into my bones. It was incredibly relaxing, and I felt like perhaps these guys had thought about the therapeutic value of their music, even though that seems....well, highly possible actually. It reminded me of this concept I recently learned about, called entrainment, in which heartbeats and brain waves, or even people, become synchronized, beating as one....
This album is at once relaxing and energizing. It strips away my sadness, worry, anger, and grief. The music in this album honestly makes my heart double in size; every time I swear I feel it expanding within my chest. That feeling you get when you love something so much, and you're so happy, that you feel yourself overfilling with joy, like it's somehow about to edge over the brim... I can never get sick of this album, either. It has slowly become my most-listened-to-album of all, because, like the really great books and movies, it's more than a collection of words and scores; it's a memory; an experience. It evokes and creates a set of thoughts and emotions that are too pure to ignore, and too life-affirming to experience once (or not again and again).
It wasn't always like that: the first few months I owned this, I put it on as relaxing, oft times entrancing background music, usually with incense, while reading. It wasn't until I took the time to put my headphones on and let it become the only thing in my consciousness that I realized how divine it was. Hearing this, and seeing Jónsi Birgisson sing makes me wonder if these guys are even human. How can human beings make such beautiful music? It's more than just an amalgamation of noises and sounds and vocals and chords, it's like a living, breathing being...that wakes up and lives, and speaks, and eats and dances and yells and whispers, that ebbs and flows and pushes and pulls....I've listened to thousands of artists, and none of them have created anything quite like this. I've seen dozens of shows, and none of them have equaled the vivacity, the ethereality, and the complete absorptivity of their show.
I think one of the--if not THE--fundamental difference(s) is that they're not singing in English. I'm such an interpreter, such an analyzer and reflector, that I always listen to and decipher the lyrics as best as I can. My favorite sad songs are all by other artists, but for some reason, Sigur Rós makes me feel something bigger and more euphoric than any other band, and that's one reason why: their unreadable (or nonsensical lyrical) music appeals to the more primitive emotion centers of the brain, rather than the higher-order verbal and analytical centers. This is why their music pierces straight through to their listeners' souls. (And why they have such a huge following with non-Icelandic speakers). All conscious censorship and blinding perception is thrown away, leaving an open passage for their otherworldly, spiritual music.
This of course makes me think of classical music, which is non-lyrical, but the calculated, geometric compositions by Bach and Mozart and other geniuses are too technical to bypass the higher brain functions. Also, the lack of vocals entirely creates somewhat of a distance between the nonliving instruments and their living listeners, whereas the simple sound of a voice, inflected up and down into each emotion, creates an inherent bond. Perhaps Birgisson's uniquely high-pitched voice achieves this even more readily: his voice being more similar to a child's, and therefore, harkening back to when our brains were functioning almost exclusively on basic emotions. Obviously, people all over the world enjoy music in languages other than their own, but I suspect that Sigur Rós knew of this visceral power of their music when they created their own instrumental language.