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Our next three Essentials Records of the Month — which you’ll receive if you sign up for VMP Essentials in January, February and March 2022 — feature an epic Icelandic breakthrough, a pivotal extraterrestrial pop favorite and a foundational indie rock classic.
Our Essentials Record of the Month in January is Sigur Rós’ Ágætis byrjun, the sonically massive second studio album and breakthrough record from the peerless post-rock group. The record was initially released in Iceland in 1999, and as it began to rapidly gain traction, was officially released in 2000 in the U.K. and 2001 in the U.S. Influenced by the people of Iceland and its unique natural landscape, the record blends a high-drama symphonic quality with shoegaze and haunting vocals that are in a combination of Icelandic and, in a couple instances, “Vonlenska” (or, “Hopelandic” in English, a “nonsense” language made up by the band).
VMP worked very closely with the artists’ team on creating our exclusive package for this record. Our edition comes on 2LP Deep Blue vinyl in a gatefold jacket, with a new Listening Notes booklet from acclaimed UK author and journalist Martin Aston and an art print by Gotti Bernhöft.
“It’s an honor to be featuring Ágætis byrjun as the first Essentials ROTM to kick off our 2022 lineup. I know this gets said about a lot of records, but I do think in this case, it’s true: This is a work unlike any other. You’ve got a made-up language, Jónsi playing the guitar with a horse hair cello bow, these epic songs that stretch past the 10-minute mark. It sounds like you’re lost in a volatile and effervescent dream,” VMP Head of Editorial Amileah Sutliff said. “Not only is it a stellar album to drop that needle on and get lost in while we’re in the belly of winter, it’s a borderline spiritual experience, and for that — and a variety of other reasons — it absolutely makes sense for it to get the VMP treatment.”
In February, our Essentials Record of the Month is Grimes’ Visions, the distinctive third release from the game-changing internet electro-pop martian. In 2011, Claire Boucher isolated herself to a dark room over the course of three weeks — going for long periods without food, sleep or company — and recorded the album on GarageBand. Upon its release, it made waves on the internet, and far beyond it, propelling her status toward a new tier of pop star. With our Essentials reissue arriving a decade later, its impact is even more clear.
VMP was thrilled to have Grimes herself involved in the creation of our package for this Essentials pick. It’s pressed at GZ on Magenta & Green Galaxy vinyl with lacquers cut by Barry Grint at Alchemy Mastering at AIR. Grimes not only made the art print that comes with the record but also wrote an intimate track-by-track breakdown of the album for our edition’s new Listening Notes booklet.
“At the time when i was making Visions, i was most proud of this song,” she wrote about the song “Eight.” “Honestly i think it’s kind of underrated — still personally one of my favourites. I was jubilantly experimenting, and i can really feel my pure joy and excitement in this. I remember just loving making this song and thinking ‘wow nothing sounds like this, this is new!’ I still feel like this song doesn't sound like anything that exists, and i’m proud of that.”
Visions will be available for signups on January 20.
Finally, we’re rounding out our first 2022 Essentials lineup with our March Record of the Month: Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West. The second studio album by the seminal Pacific Northwest indie rock band, it marked an essential inflection point in the development of the group’s sound.
“Earlier Modest Mouse recordings done at Moon [Studios] explored some of the sonic possibilities a studio can provide, such as backwards sounds, added ambience and effects,” Scott Swayze, a musician, engineer and producer who worked on the record, writes in the brand new Listening Notes booklet for our edition of the record. “We approached The Lonesome Crowded West differently. It is a raw rock record; a snapshot of the band at that point in time, with minimal embellishment.”
"Our reissue of the album was pressed at GZ on 2LP “Bottom of the Sky” vinyl, with lacquers cut by Bob Weston of Chicago Mastering Service, Swayze’s Listening Notes booklet and an art print by Violet Aveline.
Lonesome Crowded West will be available for signups on February 17.