David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 82: Sigur Ros (Saeglopur)

July 17, 2020

"Saeglopur" means "Lost At Sea." No title better fits here.

For one thing, the further I get into my commitment to this 365 artists in 365 songs series, the more I feel "lost at sea." Maybe I really should have thought this commitment thing through. Among other things, it is hard to believe anyone even notices within the vast emptiness that is the internet right now.

Additionally, being lost at sea encapsulates my struggle with the band, Iceland's Sigur Ros, and this song, one of my favorites by them. Liking them but being able to talk about them are two different things. To start with, I can't pronounce their song titles: "Popplagio" -- pop lodge e-o? "Meo bloonasir" -- Me uh blunasaur? No, I'm a dinosaur. "Saeglopur" -- Say glop er? Well, I did say that.

Most of us can't even pronounce their home town: Reykjavik.  Wreck of it?  We might know of it, know it is beautiful in the surreal way far northern towns are, but it might as well be some Tibetan Shangri-la for all non-Europeans know about it.

I couldn't identify the band members if they came to my door. Of course, these days if they came to my door, I'd yell through the door, "leave it on the porch!" Bjork, other famous Icelander, might not be mistaken as an Amazon driver (the swan boa might give her away).

Even 6 paragraphs into this blog, I am convinced I couldn't explain them, yet I am getting ready to try. I just know that they were a pleasant surprise from both a former boss and a current cousin (well, he's always been a cousin) when they introduced Sigur Ros to me at about the same time a little over a decade ago.

With Sigur Ros, songs are sung, or screeched, or moaned, or whispered across, within, underneath, above, long-drawn out notes, near endless build ups, and intense tempo changes. They require careful listening, not always easy for someone who wants to know the lyrics.  Even when song titles are translated, the lack of context related: "A World, New and Crazed;" "The Fly's Savoir;" "Death Song;" "Hopping Into Puddles;" and "Within Me A Lunatic Sings"; conspires to make them more non-sensical than they were when they were just Icelandic words or Vonlenska ("hopelandic"), the label given by the band to categorize many of their made up words.

Musically, they are defined by guitars played by cello bows, overall minimalistic approaches to melody, and falsetto lead vocals.  When I listen to "Saeglopur," I am truly lost at sea, but it is a glorious cast-about across the face of the water.  Initially, as the song builds off of gentle piano, I bob, I launch, I buckle, and I bounce along the surface (is it no coincidence that Sigur Ros is forming at about the same time Moby is recording the beautiful instrumental "God Moving Across The Face Of The Waters"?). "Saeglopur" eventually makes you dance at the end of the bow, albeit boat or cello. The force of the full-frontal instrumental attack splashes over the boat's edge several minutes in, as I track the falsetto voice across the endless ocean, ears ringing from a pounding surf the undertow drags me from. 

It is no wonder the song is used in the trailer for Life of Pi, the adaptation of Yann Martel's story of a boy stranded for months at sea with a tiger.

As with Martel's book (and the film), "Saeglopur" reminds me when all's said and done, after an intense seven-and-a-half minutes, that even when lost at sea there is beauty. I may play it again and stay lost at sea, even if my SOS goes unread.

"Saeglopur." Takk. Sigur Ros. Geffen. 2005. Link here. 

Day 81: Rickie Lee Jones "The Last Chance Texaco."

Day 83: The Police "Message In A Bottle."

See complete list here.