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Stuck on Shuffle: What is the sound of two whales fighting?

Fantasizing about the secret life of Sigur Ròs

Sigur Ros makes music that borders on utter nonsense – and I don’t mean that as pejorative, because I think they’re kind of cool.

Their songs sound like a gang of whales fighting one another with lightning. They usually start out with ethereal vocals. These represent whale introductions, as far as I can tell. They build up from there, at a slow burn, as the whales become frustrated with one other. The singer will bend the pitch a little bit, which I guess is profanity in whalespeak, and when you hear the first sound that sounds like lightning, that means the fight has started in earnest. Judging by the band’s metronomic comfort zone, whales mostly fight in slow motion.

Sigur Ros comes from Iceland. Where, exactly, is Iceland? Is it technically part of Europe? Is it a Greenland’s geographical afterthought? Is it just part of…the ocean? I think the first Icelandic societies were either started by fishermen or Vikings (I didn’t have time to Wikipedia this part), and I think the band formed spontaneously one morning when the sun shone across a dewy, Icelandic meadow and made a flower happy.

Their lead singer’s name is unpronounceable to me because it contains letters I’ve never seen, and I suspect are made up, like “Hopelandic,” the language they supposedly sing in. I looked up their name and it means “Victory Rose.” Whaaaat?

Needless to say, I’m confused. They make appealing music, but I have no idea what the deal is, and I distrust anyone who says that they know for sure. My fantasy is this: Sigur Ros is as confused about me as I am about them. (I don’t mean me personally, I mean the whole deal: the society that you and I come from, our customs, our respective countries, our language, food, etc.)

They land in North America to play concerts, and they’re immediately shocked that no restaurant is serving squirrel. They suspect that there’s some logic to the major record label thing, but for the life of them, they can’t figure it out. All they know is they walk onto a big platform every couple of nights, interact with one another in the traditional Icelandic way (a simulated whale fight) and someone gives someone else they know a lot of smelly green paper.

They survive this way until somehow, by the grace of God, they make their way safely back to Iceland, where they go underground and transform back into to soft balls of light. Their lead singer doesn’t know that you’re not supposed to play a guitar with a cello bow. Sigur Ros has no idea what’s going on.

Edit: Alright, I saw them in concert and it turns out they speak English. Either they’re figuring us out, or this whole theory is bullshit.

Check out future installments of Zach’s column for more outlandish statements on music and pop culture. Look for Stuck on Shuffle every second Monday in the Culture section.