Ágætis byrjun

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ágætis byrjun
Studio album by
Released12 June 1999 (1999-06-12)
RecordedAugust 1998 – April 1999
ProducerKen Thomas
Sigur Rós chronology
Ágætis byrjun
( )
Singles from Ágætis byrjun
  1. "Svefn-g-englar"
    Released: 21 July 1999
  2. "Ný batterí"
    Released: 20 March 2000

Ágætis byrjun (Icelandic: [ˈaːucaitɪs ˈpɪrjʏn], A good beginning)[1] is the second studio album by Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, released on 12 June 1999. The album was recorded between the summer of 1998 and the spring of 1999 with producer Ken Thomas. Ágætis byrjun represented a substantial departure from the band's previous album Von, with that album's extended ambient soundscapes replaced by Jónsi Birgisson's cello-bowed guitar work and orchestration, using a double string octet amongst other chamber elements.

Ágætis byrjun was a commercial and critical breakthrough for the band. It received a 2000 release in the United Kingdom and a 2001 release in the United States. According to their label Smekkleysa, the album sold 10,000 copies on its first year of release in Iceland, earning the band platinum status.[2] It won numerous awards, and has appeared on multiple critics' lists of the best albums of the 2000s.

Ágætis byrjun is the band's first album to feature keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, and their last to feature drummer Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson, who left the band several months after the album was released. Gunnarsson was replaced by Orri Páll Dýrason in the same year.


Logo on the album cover in the font ShelleyAllegro BT

The ten songs on the album include some self-reference; the introduction contains backmasked sections of the title track, and the last song, "Avalon", consists of a different take of an instrumental passage from "Starálfur" slowed to around a quarter of its original speed. The string parts on "Starálfur" are palindromic; they are the same forwards and backwards.

All vocals are sung in Icelandic, except for those on "Olsen Olsen" and the last section of the title track, which are sung in the gibberish language Vonlenska. Sigur Rós' subsequent album, ( ), used Vonlenska exclusively for its vocals.

The album has been described as "cosmic", "other-worldly" and "timeless" due to the unique sound of the band's music.[3]


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 title has also been translated as "An alright start."

The sketch on the cover was drawn by Gotti Bernhöft with a Bic Cristal ballpoint pen.[4] The booklet cover for the CD edition of the album features the line: "Ég gaf ykkur von sem varð að vonbrigðum... þetta er ágætis byrjun" which translates to "I gave you (plural) hope that became a disappointment... this is a good beginning".[1] This line is a reference to their two previous releases, Von and Von brigði.

Sigur Rós assembled and glued together the cases of the first print of Ágætis byrjun themselves. As a result, many of the CDs were unusable due to glue stains.[4]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
The Austin Chronicle[7]
The Boston Phoenix[8]
The Guardian[9]
Rolling Stone[13]
The Village VoiceB[15]

While released to little fanfare, the album quickly gained radio exposure in Iceland, and spent the autumn of 1999 climbing the Icelandic album charts, finally resting at the top for a number of weeks. After surprising success in Iceland, the album subsequently gained strong international buzz with numerous articles in many prominent publications, hype from internet message boards and blogs, as well as often exuberant critical praise. Ágætis byrjun was released in the United Kingdom in 2000, and in the North American market in 2001 by Fat Cat Records.[16] In 2001, Ágætis byrjun won the inaugural Shortlist Music Prize.

An acclaimed music video was made for "Viðrar vel til loftárása". The album's tracks have also been featured in soundtracks; "Starálfur" was used in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou[17] and the Emmy winning 2005 TV film The Girl in the Café. "Svefn-g-englar" was used in Vanilla Sky, amongst others. The song "Flugufrelsarinn" has been arranged by Stephen Prustman for the Kronos Quartet, and is available on their download-only release Kronos Quartet Plays Sigur Rós.

Pitchfork ranked Ágætis byrjun at number two on their list of the best albums of 2000 (behind Kid A by Radiohead),[18] and at number eight on their list of the top 200 albums of the 2000s.[19]

In December 2009, Rolling Stone ranked Ágætis byrjun the 29th best album of the 2000s.[20]

In the Q and Mojo Classic Special Edition "Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock", the album placed at number 27 in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums".

The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[21]

It was announced in 2009 that a deluxe edition would be released to mark the 10th anniversary of Ágætis byrjun's international release.[22] It was slated for release in early summer 2015. It was to feature previously unheard studio and live recordings as well as photographic and documentary material from the band's personal archives.

Ágætis byrjun peaked at No. 24 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart in January and as of 2008 it has sold 227,000 copies in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[23] In Europe it was upgraded to Platinum by Impala award for 400,000+ copies sold up to 2012.[24]

Track listing[edit]

1."Intro" ([25])1:36
5."Ný batterí"8:09
6."Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)"7:09
7."Viðrar vel til loftárása"10:16
8."Olsen Olsen"8:02
9."Ágætis byrjun"7:55
Total length:71:43

20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition[edit]

On July 5, 2019, the band released an anniversary edition of the album as a 4-CD box set, and as a limited-edition, 7-vinyl-album set. It features early versions and demos of the songs on the record, and unreleased songs, pulled together from the band's personal archive, as well as The Icelandic Opera (Íslenska Óperan) June 12, 1999, concert, recorded for the Icelandic radio.[26]

CD2: Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999
No.TitleAdditional informationLength
1."Intro" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999)Performed by Amiina5:05
2."Von" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999)Original version on Von, 19977:44
3."Syndir guðs" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999)Previously on "Svefn-g-englar" single
Original version on Von, 1997
4."Flugufrelsarinn" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999) 9:07
5."Olsen Olsen" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999) 6:07
6."Ágætis byrjun" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999) 7:33
7."Viðrar vel til loftárása" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999) 8:32
8."Svefn-g-englar" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999) 9:26
Total length:59:03
CD3: Live at Íslenska Óperan plus Rarities
No.TitleAdditional informationLength
1."Ný batterí" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999) 5:58
2."Nýja lagið" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999)Previously on "Svefn-g-englar" single9:48
3."Hafsól" (Live at Íslenska Óperan, 1999) 15:21
4."Hugmynd 1" (Demo) 6:58
5."Hugmynd 2" (Demo) 4:02
6."Hugmynd 3" (Demo) 9:50
7."Debata mandire" (Live at Laugardashöll, 1999) 3:48
8."Rafmagnið búið"From Ný batterí EP, 2000; originally credited as "performed by the SS brass band."6:00
Total length:61:45
CD4: Rarities
1."Svefn-g-englar" (Live at Popp í Reykjavík, 1998)11:50
2."Starálfur" (Original Speed Version)6:26
3."Flugufrelsarinn" (1998 demo)8:47
4."Ný batteri" (First Mix)7:06
5."Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)" (1995 demo)9:16
6."Viðrar vel til loftárása" (Alternative Ending)11:04
7."Olsen olsen" (1998 demo)7:26
8."Ágætis byrjun" (1998 demo)8:02
Total length:69:57



Weekly charts[edit]

Weekly chart performance for Ágætis byrjun
Chart (2019) Peak
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[27] 114
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[28] 138
French Albums (SNEP)[29] 114
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[30] 59
Scottish Albums (OCC)[31] 18
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[32] 99
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[33] 80

Year-end charts[edit]

2016 year-end chart performance for Ágætis byrjun
Chart (2016) Position
Icelandic Albums (Plötutíóindi)[34] 59

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Iceland[35] Platinum 19,500[36]
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Gold 100,000^
United States 227,000[38]
Europe 400,000[39]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label Format Catalogue Notes
Iceland June 1999 Smekkleysa CD SM79CD
United Kingdom 11 August 2000 Fat Cat 2LP FATLP11
United States 22 May 2001 PIAS CD PIASA 01-02
United Kingdom 9 March 2009 Fat Cat 2LP FATLP11X 180g vinyl, DMM


  1. ^ a b "sigur rós - lyrics". sigur-ros.co.uk. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  2. ^ Steinarsson, Birgir Orn (Sep 30, 2000). "International: Fat Cat's Sigur Rós Stakes Claim for Independence". Billboard: The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment. 50 (120.26): 90. ProQuest 986892.
  3. ^ Wiser, Danny (6 July 2020). "ICELAND: Ágætis Byrjun - Sigur Rós". 200worldalbums.com. Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  4. ^ a b "sigur rós - trivia". sigur-ros.co.uk. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  5. ^ "Reviews for Ágætis Byrjun by Sigur Rós". Metacritic. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  6. ^ Carlson, Dean. "Ágætis Byrjun – Sigur Rós". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  7. ^ Chamy, Michael (8 June 2001). "Sigur Rós: Ágætis Byrjun (PIAS)". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  8. ^ Endelman, Michael (12–19 July 2001). "Sigur Rós: Agaetis Byrjun (Fat Cat)". The Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  9. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (11 August 2000). "Sigur Ros: Agaetis Byrjun (FatCat)". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  10. ^ Chick, Stevie (14 August 2000). "Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun". NME. Archived from the original on 10 March 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  11. ^ Greene, Jayson (30 June 2019). "Sigur Rós: Ágætis byrjun". Pitchfork. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  12. ^ Maconie, Stuart. "Sigur Rós: Ágætis Byrjun". Q. Archived from the original on 28 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  13. ^ Blashill, Pat (28 September 2000). "Agaetis Byrjun: Sigur Ros". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  14. ^ Gross, Jason (October 2000). "Couch: Fantasy / Sigur Rós: Agaetis byrjun". Spin. 16 (10): 177–78. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (15 January 2002). "Consumer Guide: Popstakes". The Village Voice. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  16. ^ The Mojo Collection: 4th Edition. Canongate Books. 2007. p. 672. ISBN 978-1847676436.
  17. ^ "eighteen seconds before sunrise - sigur rós news » 2004» November» 29". sigur-ros.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  18. ^ "Top 20 Albums of 2000". Pitchfork. 2001-01-01. Retrieved 2024-02-08.
  19. ^ Pitchfork staff (2 October 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 20-1". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  20. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Decade". Rolling Stone. 2009-12-09. Archived from the original on December 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  21. ^ Dimery, Robert; Lydon, Michael (2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. New York City: Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  22. ^ "sigur rós » discography » ágætis byrjun » ordering info & deluxe edition". Eighteen Seconds Before Sunrise, the Official Sigur Rós News Source. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  23. ^ "Sigur Ros unveils "Buzz" in record time". Uk.reuters.com. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  24. ^ "13/12/12: More Independent Artists Take European Gold, Silver and Platinum Awards Than Ever Before". Impalamusic.org. Archived from the original on 2014-04-09. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  25. ^ The album's packaging leaves the first track untitled, though the band's website gives the piece the name "Intro". It has also been referred to by the band as "Nujryb sitægá"[citation needed] ("Ágætis byrjun" spelled backwards.)
  26. ^ "Ágætis byrjun - A Good Beginning (20th Anniversary Edition) 4CD Boxset Sigur Rós". store.sigurros.com. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  27. ^ "Ultratop.be – Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  28. ^ "Ultratop.be – Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  29. ^ "Le Top de la semaine : Top Albums Fusionnes – SNEP (Week 28, 2019)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  30. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun - A Good Beginning" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  31. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  32. ^ "Top 100 Albumes – Semana 29: del 12.7.2019 al 18.7.2019" (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  33. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun". Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  34. ^ "Tónlistinn – Plötur – 2016" (in Icelandic). Plötutíóindi. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  35. ^ "Sigur Rós Go Platinum in Iceland". Sigur Rós. 21 December 2005.
  36. ^ "Sigur Rós verðlaunuð i bak og fyrir". Timarit. 21 December 2005. Retrieved 27 June 2023.
  37. ^ "British album certifications – Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  38. ^ Hasty, Katie (21 June 2008). "Sigur Ros unveils "Buzz" in record time". Reuters.
  39. ^ "13/12/12 More Independent Artists Take European Gold, Silver and Platinum Awards Than Even Before". Impala. 13 December 2012. Archived from the original on 15 July 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2019.

External links[edit]