It's been 4 years since Sigur Ros last released a new album, a time period that has seen lead singer Jonsi release two separate albums of related material and the band put out a live compilation at the end of last year, the solid Inni. But still, it's been quite a long time since a proper Sigur Ros release and in the dearth of strong releases so far in 2012 -- really since the 2nd half of 2011 -- I welcomed the return of the Icelandic heroes, now 13 years removed from the Agaetis Byrjun blast of originality that brought them on the indie rock scene in 1999. The latest album is titled Valtari, and it is a return to the more sweeping, languid rhythms of their earlier work as opposed to the more overtly "pop"-based Takk... and Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. All but one song runs over 6 minutes and there are some real standouts -- "Rembihnútur" is pure beauty and "Varðeldur" just magical, a variation I believe on a track from last year's live Inni. And overall, everything just flows together, drifting in and out of moods that provide calm reassurance in the power of the band's music. Valtari translates to "steamroller" and it's a curious title because this music so gently sweeps over you, there aren't many moments of guitar-heavy brilliance that would necessarily steamroll you, particularly not as much as on some of their greatest masterpieces but that's not to say that the quiet beauty of the tracks included aren't brilliant in their own respect. Jonsi's voice feels stronger and more committed in his native language than on the disappointing solo stuff, and the ethereal music that swells around the crescendos in his vocal flourishes work as perfectly here as they once did, back when Sigur Ros wasn't so much a movement but merely a great band. I like the return to their roots here and I like the languid rhythms. I do miss a few of the burning anthems that populated the last two albums to great effect, but in a year of indie rock disappointment so far for me, this release was a welcome relief.