Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós has cultivated a massive international audience despite the inscrutable nature of their music.
Since they formed in 1994, Sigur Rós has specialized in creating ethereal and hauntingly beautiful Icelandic music. As such, lyrics to the band’s songs are unintelligible to the vast majority of the population of Earth. Despite that considerable barrier, the band’s music has been commercially successful throughout the Western world since the early 2000’s.
The band’s first album, 1997’s Von, was a lush dream pop album in the tradition of the Cocteau Twins. It was with their breakthrough sophomore effort, 1999’s Ágætis byrjun, that the group adopted their signature bowed-guitar driven sound. They became a sensation in Iceland, and finally it was the group’s third album that made waves in the international music scene.
Sigur Rós’ third album, 2002’s (), served as the group’s breakthrough into the English-language music market. The record received rave reviews from a host of U.S. publications and debuted at number 50 on Billboard’s 200 albums chart. The band’s next album, 2005’s Takk…, got even better reviews and sold more than 800,000 copies worldwide even with the use of an unintelligible fake language called Hopelandic. The group’s subsequent releases have solidified Sigur Rós’ position as one of the world’s best alt-rock bands.
Although the band’s music is incredibly imaginative, the origin of their name is deeply mundane. A few days after Sigur Rós was formed, frontman Jónsi Birgisson’s younger sister was born. Her given name is Sigurrós, which translates to a conjoined version of the words “Victory” and “Rose.” Sigur Rós is a grammatically incorrect take on Sigurrós’ name.