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Book News / Obligatory New Sigur Rós Album Gushing

May 20, 2012

Before I babble about music, here’s a bit of book news:

In the UK, my novel Memorial Day is available in paperback here , Kindle here, and other eBook formats here. I’m awaiting my first paperback of the book some time in the next couple of days. Something tells me I won’t be able to hide my excitement.

In the US, it’s available on Kindle here. The paperback proof will take a couple more weeks to reach me.

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On Thursday, the new Sigur Rós album Valtari was streamed from one time zone to the next in a 24-hour global listening party. It started in the evening at 7 just as Dom had left for a run so I went upstairs to our bedroom, turned the stereo up (a bit too loud – sorry neighbours), and turned my chair to face the window to watch the sun as it slowly sank into the fields. The Sigur Rós promo team really couldn’t have picked a better time for the stream (though I’m sure they knew that). As expected, the album was beautiful – but I’ll get back to that.

I have a deeply sentimental bond with Sigur Rós’ music that goes back nearly ten years when I first came across a streaming MP3 of ‘Svefn-G-Englar’. At the time, I was 17 and was a total basket-case: I lived at my grandmother’s as her caretaker after she was hit by a car, was struggling with my first year of college, and had just been publicly disciplined by the elders of my congregation – all while doing my best not to come to terms with my own sexuality. I don’t think I have to go into detail about what a closeted upbringing in a ultra-conservative Christian household in Texas does to someone prone to severe depression, so let’s just say it was a very troubling time for me.

Back to the music – I remember leaning back in my 70s avocado green plastic chair with my headphones on, the volume cranked up to hear all the strange layers and textures. After about 45 seconds or so, the bowed guitar creeps in, building and building, then exploding into a massive wall of controlled white noise that for me was probably the start of a decade of progressive hearing damage. Everything from the orchestration, to the ghostly falsetto vocals, to the guitar (that beautiful goddamn guitar).. it was all mind-blowing. I had never heard anything like this before and I immediately became obsessed with finding EVERY bit of music this band had ever released. In an obsessive, illegal search engine binge, I got my greedy hands on every Sigur Rós release to date.

Eventually, I came across the music video for ‘Viðrar vel til loftárása’ (‘Good weather for airstrikes’). At the time, this was a rather controversial video as it showed two boys playing with a doll then later kissing on a football pitch after a goal (how dare they!). Sleepiness offset my impatience and I remember sitting with my face inches away from the screen, totally beguiled by the video’s slow, patient pace. Towards the end, my eyes filled with tears, and it wasn’t just because I was moved by the story and music – the entire personal experience was so foreign to me I honestly had no idea what to think or how to feel about what I was watching. When the video finished, I immediately shut off the computer and crawled into bed, and as I lay in the dark, staring at the tacky reflective ‘stars’ in the ceiling that refused to twinkle, I realised I was crying mostly because I had never seen anything that showed homosexuality to be anything but detestable – much less something that could be motivated by love. I had a hard time accepting that the tenderness shown in the video could be anything but pure and, though perplexing at the time, seeing this video was the catalyst that really got me questioning everything in which I then believed.

This past Thursday, as the new Sigur Rós album streamed in my relatively new surroundings, my eyes filled with tears as I felt transported years back to that first listen. I remembered the confusion, the feeling of overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness towards my personal situation, the sensation of something wholly unfamiliar that was able to take me far, far away from my dim bedroom. And then, I realised where I was – where I actually, physically was – and I began to laugh as I thought about how far away from there and then I’ve taken myself. Sometimes it’s hart to believe, but then again, sometimes it’s the most natural feeling in the world.

I think this is a recommendation of the new album and of Sigur Rós in general, but I never really know what I’m trying to say or write. I’m crap at describing anything that means anything to me so let’s just pretend this is some sort of pretentious advance review. 10 out of 10, Best New Music, Album of the Month, yadda yadda yadda….

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