Since the international breakthrough of The Sugarcubes and Björk in the late 1980s, the Anglophone discourse surrounding Icelandic popular music has proven to be the latest instance of a long history of representation in which the North Atlantic island is imagined as an icy periphery on the edge of European civilization. This mode of representation is especially prominent in the discourse surrounding post-rock band Sigur Rós. This article offers a critical reading of the band’s reception in the Anglo-American music press during the period of their breakthrough in the UK and USA. Interpretative strategies among listeners and critics are scrutinised using the concept of borealism (Kristinn Schram) in order to examine attitudes towards the Nordic regions evident in the portrayals of Sigur Rós. Reception issues then form the basis for a musical analysis of a seminal track in the band’s history, aiming to demonstrate how specific details in Sigur Rós’ style relate to its reception and the discourse surrounding it. The article finds that much of the metaphorical language present in the band’s reception can be linked to techniques of musical spatiality, the unusual sound of the bowed electric guitar, and non-normative uses of voice and language.