NEW YORK (Billboard) - So much about the release of Sigur Ros' new album came as a surprise. The biggest of these was that the Icelandic quartet would release "Med sud i Eyrum vid Spilum Endalaust" (With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly) a mere month after announcing its very existence.
"Buzz" arrives June 23 worldwide via EMI and the following day in the United States via XL Recordings. An announcement went out May 27 that album track "Gobbledigook" would be available for free download that day. A week later, on June 2, fans could pre-order the album and the deluxe edition; those who pre-ordered would receive a download of the album a week in advance. On June 9, the entire album could be streamed from the band's Web site and Last.fm.
Sigur Ros' "instinct" to release the album as early as possible was born out of frustration with the traditional lag time between an album's completion and its release. Sessions began in February, with the band co-producing with Flood (U2, Depeche Mode).
"They didn't get along initially. There was some posturing, like the band going, 'Who the f--- are you?' and Flood going, 'What am I doing here?' After five days of that, they started to get along. They jelled over nerdy microphone gear conversations," said Sigur Ros manager John Best.
The producer most notably drew singer Jon Thor Birgisson's voice upfront on songs that are more traditionally structured (read: verse/chorus) than those on their three previous studio efforts. Birgisson even recorded one song in English (another first), though his remarkable falsetto makes it practically indistinguishable from his native Icelandic.
After postproduction wrapped, EMI and XL had just two weeks to get their marketing plans rolling. Luckily, "Sigur Ros have a fervent fan base who are keen to be mobilized and are incredibly Internet-savvy. In a way, this doesn't rely on huge amounts of promotion," said EMI head of publicity William Luff.
Indeed, fan input helped determine the contents for the album's limited edition, due in September, which will contain a 192-page book of photos, notes and memorabilia; pieces of actual 16mm film shot of the band; and a DVD of 2008 performances.
The band's sales have remained consistent in the States since its 1999 debut, "Agaetis Byrjun," which has sold 227,000 units; 2002's "( )" has shifted 296,000. Now, thanks to Flood's production and a more traditional approach to song structure, Sigur Ros' camp believes the time is right for the group to cross over from cult sensation to the mainstream.