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By GINA VIVINETTO, GERRY DOYLE, QUINCEY VIERLING, BRIAN ORLOFF, PAMELA DAVIS and PETER A. COUTURE

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 1, 2001


SIGUR ROS, AGAETIS BYRJUN (PIAS) Aegaetis Byrjun . . . ahh, the words just flow off the tongue, don't they?

SIGUR ROS, AGAETIS BYRJUN (PIAS) Aegaetis Byrjun . . . ahh, the words just flow off the tongue, don't they?

Maybe not. But, Sigur Ros' music is languid and lovely, even if it is tough to comprehend what this Icelandic quartet is singing about. Credit that to singer-guitarist Jon Por Birgisson's lyrics, which he sings in his native tongue combined with imaginary words, in "Hopelandic," a language all his own.

And it probably would take a made-up idiom to encompass all the emotion in the music of Sigur Ros, whose name means "Victory Rose."

Agaetis Byrjun -- since 1999 a blockbuster hit at home and big in Europe, finally now released in the United States -- is as filled with sonic earthquakes and blizzards as the tiny island from which the band hails. This music is otherworldly -- think of the Cocteau Twins -- and haunting -- think of Galaxie 500, or Radiohead. It's also very pretty. On one tune Birgisson seems to repeat, "It's you," so achingly it gives chills, his falsetto dipping and fluttering like a bird. Orchestral flourishes, gentle guitar feedback -- Birgisson often plays with a violin bow! -- woozy horns and melancholy piano bring it together.

Sigur Ros sounds like no other band. This is an affecting, moving album. My Icelandic friends -- okay, the press I've read -- tell me Agaetis Byrjun means "good start." Good heavens, can it get any better than this? A. -- GINA VIVINETTO, Times pop music critic

* * *

WEEZER, WEEZER (UNI/GEFFEN) Weezer's new album, Weezer, is self-titled. And the rest of the album, like the title, is not particularly imaginative.

Rivers Cuomo, the band's frontman, has an Ivy League education, but none of the songs seem to rise very far above the musical level of a good state university. All the tracks are good, no question. The first few, especially Don't Let Go, with its Blink-182-esque intro, and Island in the Sun's syncopated background rhythms, are pleasing to the ear. But it's hard to find depth in an album that's all of 28 minutes long. Don't Let Go, for example, features catchy lyrics such as If you want it/you can have it/but you gotta learn to reach out there and grab it. Inspirational, maybe, but hardly transcendent. Knock-down Drag-out is the album's high point, describing a vicious fight: Take no prisoners/here in this knock-down drag-out war . . . it's all that I can do right now/I'll make it up to you somehow/I'll meet you on the other side.

Oh, all the tracks are listenable, toe-tapping treats. But musical content? Weezer will leave you gasping for substance. B. -- GERRY DOYLE, Times staff writer

* * *

NIKKA COSTA, EVERYBODY GOT THEIR SOMETHING (VIRGIN) It's about time for another rock chick. From Janis to Debbie and Joan to Courtney, women who unapologetically rock have been the exception in rock music, though they may treat rock star status as an inalienable right.

Nikka Costa possesses this sense of entitlement in spades, as evidenced by her breakthrough album Everybody Got Their Something. Costa runs the gamut of rock experience, and her honey-and-gravel, blues-influenced voice conquers every trial.

On the title track and Like a Feather she purrs over organic R&B beats. On Tug of War she tests the limits of her instrument by wailing over a wash of guitar, and on So Have I for You she potently exorcises the demons of a difficult relationship. The pensive Nothing and Just Because are the sensitive side of all Costas' sass and sashay, but her biting lyrics on Hope It Felt Good belie the steel beneath any softness.

Rarely can an artist combine all the grit of rock 'n' roll and the smooth sexiness of R&B and make it sound fresh rather than forced, but Costa does. Sing on, sister. A. -- QUINCEY VIERLING, Times correspondent

* * *

TRICKY, BLOWBACK (UNI/HOLLYWOOD) Tricky is an electronic music guru with a knack for crafting intricate dance club-ready compositions.

A Tricky record is an exploding canvas of rhythms and sonic textures. Blowback, featuring a slew of guest musicians, is no exception -- mostly. Beginning with the Eastern-themed opener Excess, haunted by ethereal female background vocals, Blowback is a trippy fusion of dance grooves.

Radio single Evolution Revolution Love, with vocals courtesy of Ed Kowalczyk, lead singer of the modern rock outfit Live, is dreamy and hypnotic. Also enchanting is a cameo by Cyndi Lauper on Five Days. Unfortunately, Tricky has an affinity for the Jamaican intonation of rapper Hawkman. Hawkman taints at least four songs with his annoying vocals that, quite frankly, make me want to switch songs before I can even say "shut up." His voice is like a full-on assault with a steel-toed boot.

Without Hawkman's loathsome presence, Blowback would be techno nirvana. The Trickster has many talents, but among them is not the ability to wisely select all of his collaborators. B-. -- BRIAN ORLOFF, Times correspondent

* * *

JESSICA ANDREWS, WHO I AM (DREAMWORKS) The young people who would benefit most from hearing Who I Am will probably never come close to popping it in their CD players. Jessica Andrews falls into the country music category, from which most teenagers run screaming.

And that's too bad, because this is a good CD for country-tinged pop listeners, the younger the better.

Most of the songs on Who I Am are carefree anthems of youth. All of them are heavy on the electric guitar and drums and light (almost non-existent) on pedal steel and fiddle.

Andrews, 17, is in the same league as LeAnn Rimes, not teen country star Billy Gilman. Her voice is capable of more than these simple songs require.

She's going to be something else once she has a little life experience to back up that voice. B. -- PAMELA DAVIS, Times staff writer

* * *

BUDDY GUY, SWEET TEA (SILVERTONE) The 60-something guitar slinger gets his mojo workin' with a batch of hypnotic North Mississippi blues songs and turns in a blistering set. Guy's sound pays homage to both contemporaries (the John Lee Hooker-esque turn on Junior Kimbrough's Done Got Old) and disciples (the Electric Ladyland-era Hendrix on Kimbrough's Baby Please Don't Leave Me). We should all age this well. A. -- PETER A. COUTURE, Times staff writer

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