Ágætis Byrjun is Sigur Rós' second LP, originally released by Smekkleysa records in 1999, receiving later worldwide distribution from Fat Cat in May of 2001. This album began a hype storm for the previously unheard band, earning endorsements from many critics and musicians, famously including Thom Yorke's glowing approval. It is generally considered their best-liked album, and it appeared on many critics' "best of 2000 / 2001" record lists.
The album's title came from a friend hearing the first song they had written for the album, which would become the title track. After hearing the song, he said it was "a good beginning"; the name stuck. The name has also been translated as "An alright start."
Sigur Rós won an Iceland Music Award and the 2001 Shortlist Music Prize for this album.
Compared to their first record, Ágætis Byrjun has a spectacular level of production, causing their magical, lullaby post-rock sound to manifest in all of its glory for the first time. Also, this album incorporated more kinds of instruments than the debut. The band is lumped into the post-rock category because they play slow, lengthy compositions that feature classical-style arrangements and themes played by string sections and other instruments, while utilizing rock crescendo effects similar to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A main point of divergence from other post-rock groups of their time is their use of vocals instead of just instrumental jams; their singer Jónsi Birgisson has a strong, siren-like falsetto which he uses to intone Icelandic-language lyrics as well as Hopelandic lyrics, which is their own, made-up language (featured on track 8, "Olsen Olsen" and the whole of the third LP.)
This record is full of spectacularly huge moments of heart-breaking beauty, which has drawn the band's admirers to revere them for their awesome power of creating entrancing, otherworldly music. Track highlights: "Svefn-g-englar," "Starálfur," "Ný batterí," "Viðrar vel til loftárása," "Olsen Olsen," and "Ágætis byrjun."
RIYL: Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Mercury Rev on "Deserter Songs"